Monday, March 27, 2017

First Impressions - Lomography's New F2/400 film

When the new F²/400 film from Lomography was announced back in February, I eagerly pounced and bought 10 rolls.  I liked the images that I saw in their advertisements, and still, given the history of the film, I was prepared to be disappointed.  The thing about color films, is no matter what one gets, the resulting developing, scanning and modification can be quite different from person to person. That's because we tend to adjust the colors to what we find most pleasing. My red may not be the red you like, etc.

The history of the film -- from Lomography's site:

"In 2010, we bought the last ever Jumbo Roll of original 400 ASA film from some renowned Italian filmmakers. Then, ever the ones to experiment, we left the film to age like fine wine in oak casks in the Czech Republic. Thankfully, our crazy instincts were rewarded — seven years later, we went back to discover that this fantastic film still produces refined colors with a beautifully unique tone. It’s one-of-a-kind Color Negative with an X-Pro feel, and we’re so excited to share it with you! There’s a only a very limited amount of this film available, so make sure you don’t miss out.

Lomography Tipster: If you would like to experiment different ISO, the Lomography Color Negative F²/400 film gives exciting results also with ISO 200. "

Obviously, if it came from Italy, this is old Ferrania/Solaris film.  I don't recall any experience with that, but hey, I figured that I would still give it a go. The ad colors showed the film as having more of a pastel appearance, with some trending towards blue in the neutral colors.  I loaded two cameras with the film -- my Nikon FM2N, and my Minolta XG-M.  The film in the XG-M was finished first, and I developed it in a fresh Unicolor C-41 kit from the FPP store. About half the roll was shot in New Jersey while at the FPP HQ, and the rest was shot in Ann Arbor and a new state park in Jackson Co., MI.  I rated the film at ISO 400, used Aperture-priority mode, and did not do any exposure compensation for the shots. I used an Epson V700 scanner to scan the negatives.

The film base is a dark orange-red, and the frames looked uniformly overexposed to my eye.  As we know, scanning and post processing can do wonders,    The images did tend to have muted pastel colors, slightly bluish in the neutral colors, and a bit soft.  Not necessarily a bad thing, but I ended up tweaking every image to make them satisfactory to my taste, at least.  While the Lomo site says one can shoot it at 200 for exciting results, I think one should go the other way.  ISO 800 may be where this film really shines.  The roll in my Nikon is about half shot at 400, and I am going to do the rest at 800 and see what I get.  I'll post an uncorrected image from one frame first, and my corrected version after that. The remaining images all reflect my adjustments in Paint Shop Pro, reducing the exposure and in some cases, doing some auto local tone-mapping for a better effect.

unadjusted image - straight scan

adjusted to my liking

and here we go...

Judging by the indoor photos, this film could be easily rated at ISO 800.   I have used that XG-M many times, so I know it's not overexposing due to faulty metering.  My second roll will be additional data, for certain.  
Okay, what do I think so far?  I'm on the fence.  I sort of like it, and the indoor image of Mike Raso is quite good.  I think a little underexposure might be good.    I also need to shoot it with more people as subjects and see how it goes. Of course, if you want a washed-out Lomo look to your images, this film is perfect.  As of this evening, I see that Lomography Color Negative F²/400 is still sold out, so my remaining stock is all I will probably have on hand.  If you have shot some, let me know your opinion, as well!

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Point and Shoot Review - Olympus Trip XB40AF

front of the camera
There are so many cameras that turn up for a buck or two at the thrift shop, and while I ignore many of the point and shoots, I'll occasionally buy one.   Last year, I picked up an Olympus Trip XB40AF Quartz Date 35mm camera.  It takes 2 AA cells for power -- the exposure system (however minimal it may be) and the flash need the batteries, and the film advance is also automatic.  Don't let the "Trip" designation trip you up.  White the original Olympus Trip was and still is an amazing point and shoot, the cheap descendants are not really noteworthy.  However, it's my duty to at least give one a try and report on my impressions.

The camera switches on when you slide the lens cover away.  The wide-angle 27mm lens has a maximum aperture of f/6.3, which is hardly a benefit -- so it's pretty much similar to the simple Vivitar PN211 in that regard.  I am not sure how much automation is in the camera -- The flash operates in all conditions, and there is no way to turn it off in daylight.   The shutter speed is 1/100 sec. for everything.  The true-image viewfinder is large and certainly easy to see through. There is a tripod socket. The film chamber reads the film ISO 100-400.   Obviously, when indoors, it would pay to use ISO 400 film for a better flash coverage.  The film is automatically rewound when the end of the roll is reached. I think the camera was introduced in 2000, near the end of the 35mm film point and shoot era, when digitals started to replace that part of the market.
back of the camera.

So, I put in a roll of Svema 125 color C-41 film (my last, as it turns out).  Over the course of a year, I managed to finish the roll.  Mostly I used it while at Film Photography podcast recording sessions, since were are all close together, and the 27mm lens has a pretty wide field of view.

I finished the roll in March, and home-developed in the Unicolor C-41 kit.  The Svema films lies flatter in the scanner than a woodchuck on the expressway.  Here are a few examples from the camera.

So, how did the camera fare?  Considering that it's merely a cheap P&S without any sort of control, it did about as well as any wide-angle single-use camera.  The Trip on the name is a reminder that it's supposed to be used wherever you go.  However, it's not  that the camera is bad, it's just not worthy of the Trip branding.  It's certainly worth a buck, and will give adequate, but not super results - and better than say, a Diana 35mm.   Oh, and no I didn't activate the Quartz Date back.  That's just not needed.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

First Impressions - Minolta Maxxum 5

I have only used a Minolta auto-focus camera a few times in the past -- A neighbor wanted me to sell her Minolta Maxxum 7000 and lenses for her, so I tested everything out with a roll of film before I did so.  While that camera had something going for it when it first came out, it was slow and a bit clunky in the user interface, compared to modern AF SLRs.  I also have seen a plethora of used Maxxums of various types in thrift shops, etc., sitting there, forlornly waiting for a new owner.  As I recently tested a Maxxum QTsi and was quite pleased with the results, it is just a P&S camera.  Since then, I acquired a Minolta Maxxum 5 with a 24-85mm lens.  Once I put new batteries (2 CR-2) in it, it came to life.  It helped that it had a manual, since this is a feature-packed SLR.  It features eye-start, and just about every setting one might want to use in a film SLR camera.    I am not going to go into a full review of the camera's features and settings, since they are already online elsewhere. One thing that caught my attention right away -- this has to be the lightest, compact and full-featured SLR that I have used.  If you have small hands, this is a great choice for an AF SLR.  The controls are easily accessed, and the wheel in the front of the camera controls the aperture when you are in A mode, and other settings as you rotate the mode dial are managed via the wheel.   The lens focuses quickly and the camera is very responsive to the user.
The Maxxum 5 is the top of the line in the compact SLR bodies, and the larger, more professional-quality Maxxum 7 and Maxxum 9 remain at the top of the Minolta AF SLR bodies, with features that rival and even surpass Nikon and Canon's top models.  However, the sun was setting on Minolta as the digi revolution was underway.  It's too bad, but on the other hand, you can pick up these SLRs for a fraction of what they originally cost, and the A-series lenses are rather inexpensive.  If you are looking for a auto-focus SLR and have no current investment in a system, take a look at the Maxxum 5, 7, or 9.
I shot a few rolls of b&w film for my initial testing, and have no complaints.  The camera handles VERY well, and I enjoyed using it.

Eastman 5222 film

Eastman 5222 film

Eastman 5222 film

Eastman 5222 film

expired Delta 3200 at 1600!

expired Delta 3200 at 1600!

expired Delta 3200 at 1600!

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

A Look Through the Konica EYE

Half-frame cameras are few - and while the Olympus Pen models usually come to mind, other manufacturers produced some as well.  There was the Canon Demi, The Ricoh Auto-Half, The Agfa Optima Parat, the old Univex Mercury II, Yashica Samurai, The Soviet-era Chaika-2, and then, there was also Konica, with several models to choose from including an SLR that featured full and half-frame settings. I used to own an Olympus Pen D, but I rarely used it, and sold it after a few years -- long ago. It was totally manual, and it seemed to take forever to finish a roll of film.  Of course, there are other half-frame cameras out there that I have not mentioned, but Google is your friend.

Half-frame cameras use 35mm film, but the negatives are 18x24mm, rather than 24x36mm.  Half-frame images are the same as the cine-film area.  So, a roll of 24 exposure-film will give you 48 half-frame negatives.  For cost-conscious photographers, half-frame is indeed a money-saver. If you had an Olympus Pen F SLR, you were carrying quite a good bit of photographic equipment.  It also allowed for making some quite compact rangefinders and zone-focus cameras.

I recently obtained a Konica EYE, and the logo on the front looks like a text emoticon.  The camera has a clean design, not unlike an Olympus Trip 35, and has some nice features.

  1. Dial on the back of the camera to set the ISO, with the setting appearing on the top deck
  2. Shutter speeds (auto-set) ranging from B (manual) to 1/30 to 1/800, with the 30mm lens having an aperture range of f/1.9 to f/16. 
  3. Selenium cells around the lens control the metering - just like the Olympus Trip 35.
  4. Cold shoe with a PC-sync socket on the front of the camera
  5. Zone/scale focusing, no rangefinder
  6. ISO settings from 10 to 400.

The model I have is the EYE version 2, produced in 1964. I quickly figured out its quirks and loaded a roll of Eastman 5222 b&w film into it.  You push a tiny button underneath the rewind arm to pop open the back.  Very interesting feature.

I took the Eye out with me on Sunday -- it was a cold and windy day, but I managed to shoot nearly an entire roll before I called it quits. I could sense that the winding was having some problems -- as in perhaps tearing sprocket hols and overlapping frames. However, I persevered, and it went back to normally advancing the film. Other than that, the only thing I had to remind myself to do was to set the focus to the proper range.

I developed the film in D-76, in a 1:1 ratio with water for a 10 minute developing time.   That usually works out well.  Looking at the negs, some looked over-exposed, and of course, there were a bunch of overlapped frames, just as I suspected.  Most of the images look pretty good, and I will try this camera once again with some different films. Since I roll my own cassettes, I will make them 30-frame rolls instead of 72!

Here are some of the images - all taken on the UM campus. Overall, I am pleased with the results, and maybe I'll try some TechPan another time for nearly grain-less images.

the overlapping frames!

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Filmtastic Fun at the FPP HQ

I had a long weekend in NJ last week, as I drove out with Leslie Lazenby Hunsberger to the Film Photography Project HQ in Fair Lawn, NJ.  Mat Marrash arrived just a few moments after we did on Thursday, and Mike Raso met us at the door. John Fedele and Mark Dalzell showed up in Friday to be part of the recording sessions.  I'm not going to go into any details, as I'll "save it for the show."  However, we did manage to take care of the huge number of boxes of donated cameras, accessories and film that were sent to the FPP donation program, and were quite pleased with what we had accomplished by the time we finished Saturday afternoon. We recorded a lot of podcasts, and they will resume March 15 (yay! I like listening to them as well.).

While there, I had a lot of fun shooting film in the studio, doing the podcasts, and of course, checking out the donations. Mike made sure that we ate well, and those NJ diners are amazing. The time flew by and I had to head home on Sunday.  All I can say is that I am touched and pleased at how many people are getting back into film, and how others are trying it for the first time and enjoying the process.  The FPP is a conduit for our love of film to the world at large, and it seems more and more folks are enjoying shooting with film.

One thing that we discovered while doing the shows (what show?) is that B&H lists the FPP as a place to donate your film cameras.  That was a great surprise to us, and if you find yourself with more gear than you need or want, the FPP Donation Program is a good place for your stuff. It gets cameras in the hands of students in elementary, high school, and community college photography programs.

Much to my surprise, Al Roker had a segment on the analog processes in yesterday's TODAY show! Watch it and enjoy!