Saturday, May 19, 2018

Readying for Portland

I am looking forward to going to Portland, Oregon for a week.  The Pacific NW is one area of the USA that I have not yet visited, and I have been doing my research for the trip.  While Portland is known for the rain, the weather outlook is mostly sunny all week, which has its merits, for sure.  Of course, I am packing my Tamrac camera backpack (I purchased it at Central camera in Chicago about 16 years ago) with gear for the trip.  I am bringing my Nikon N80 because it's a lot lighter than my F100. Lenses -- 50mm Nikkor, 20mm Nikkor, and 24-120 Nikkor.  The 20mm lens is fantastic, and of course, the 24-120mm is a very good all-around travel lens.  It has served me well over the years.
I may also pack my Tamron 90mm macro lens, depending on how well it all fits.   I debated on also bringing a manual Nikon FE or FG, and decided instead to bring the Yashica FX-7 Super because it's light, works great, and is a pretty nice walk-about camera with good glass.  Having used it a lot over the past month, I am pleased with how it handles and just feels right. It's most likely to be used walking around the city, and filled with b&w film.  We'll be renting a car, so of course the Oregon coast is a sure trip, as well as the Columbia River gorge, etc.

I'll be packing my new Manfrotto "BeFree" travel tripod in my checked bag, and after having tried it out a few times locally, I know it will be an excellent camera support.  I am also bringing a Holga, Lomo Sprocket Rocket, and the venerable Olympus Trip 35.  All are cameras that I know will give me something different.

As far as film goes, 10 rolls of Fuji Provia 100,  lots of Kodak TMax 400, Ilford HP-5+, and some C-41 and specialty films such as FPP Infrachrome and Mr. Brown.  I know I'll be seeing lots of waterfalls, and Mr. Brown will be just the thing for those long exposures.

Other items - lens cleaning cloth, cable release (which the N80 accepts), quick-release plates, notebooks, some short pieces of gaffer tape, various filters, including a graduated ND filter, and business cards all go into the pack.  An empty collapsed small camera bag will go into my checked luggage for when I am just doing things in the city and don't need to carry the backpack.

I thought about just bringing my Nikon D300 and a few lenses, but the APS-C sensor won't give me the benefit  of the 20mm f/2.8 Nikkor.  Just in case, I am bringing a Nikon Coolpix S600 which fits into a pocket. While my iPhone SE does a pretty good job with snaps, the little digicam has a better range of focal lengths.


Wednesday, May 16, 2018

One Roll Review -- JCH Street Pan 400

Japan Camera Hunter -- one of the most followed film photography accounts on Instagram, and the source of much GAS from his followers, piqued even more interest in 2016 when he released JCH Street Pan, a ISO 400 b&w film.  I have followed  Bellamy Hunt, aka Japan Camera Hunter, before there was Instagram.  His images of cameras  and photographers in Japan are often pure camera porn, usually with an emphasis on high-end desirable cameras.  In March 2016, Bellamy announced Japan Camera Hunter Street Pan, and of course, I was curious about it.  It was available in limited quantities later that year.  However, with so many different films coming out,  it has only been very recently that I ordered a couple of rolls for $8.49 each from B&H.  Unlike other  films that are currently available, this is a formulation made for JCH and no other seller.

To quote from the JCH site:
"Now, I couldn’t have a completely new emulsion made, so I decided to go with an old discontinued surveillance film that was original made by AGFA, and have it put back into production. And thus JCH StreetPan was born! So this is a re-born film, not a re-spooled film that is still being sold. This is also not an ‘old stock’ film or a ‘pancake’ that was kicking around a ‘dusty warehouse’. This is a freshly produced emulsion with an expiry date of 2020. The film was no longer being produced and I had it put back into production. And for the record, this is not re-spooled Rollei Retro 400s."

The attractive and distinctive red packaging makes this film stand out before you even load it into the camera.  JCH describes the film as "contrasty and full of character" and as being the "optimum film for dawn, dusk and winter photography."

Do a search for images shot with this film and you'll get the idea.  I am intrigued by its extra red sensitivity, and low grain, and the fact that it's on a polyester (mylar) base, which means very flat in the camera and very flat in the scanner!

I loaded a roll into my trusty Nikon FE with a 28-85mm Nikkor lens and shot the roll over the course of 2 days.  We have had a run of overcast and wet weather, so I figured it would be a good test for the film.  I shot it at the box speed of 400 ISO and developed it in XTOL 1:1 for 17 minutes.

It's sometimes difficult to evaluate a film based on one roll, and this is one of those times.  The film scanned beautifully on my Epson V700 scanner.  I am sure that most of the users of this film do a hybrid process - shoot film, scan digitally.  I have heard that taming the contrast may take some trial and error, and I can see that in some of my negatives.

Here are some samples, all taken on May 15, in Ann Arbor, MI.

It seems to me that the shadows are dark in many of  the images.   After reviewing my images, I think maybe setting the ISO to 200 may be a good idea for overcast days.  Having said that, I like the film, and the unique look that it gives.  It is contrasty, and gives a mood that you may find enjoyable. I'll try D-76 next time, and see if that makes any difference in the results.  The Massive Development Chart has the developer information for JCH Street Pan.

This one time when a single roll test isn't enough, but I am pleased to have a film that offers something different.  For the most part, I like my results, and look forward to shooting more.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

40 years ago today

It's my 40th wedding anniversary. My wife Adrienne and I were still in college at SUNY-ESF in Syracuse. We married at 21 in Amenia, NY, her hometown. The reception was in the Amenia firehall, and it was a small (by today's standards) reception of less than 40 people.  Forty years later, we are still married, with many more years ahead.  I scanned in some 35mm slides last night and thought about the technology changes since 1978, and the fact that the same camera could do the same job today.  The film was Kodak Ektachrome. Adrienne's cousin, Chris Murphy was the photographer, and I think used a Pentax SLR. The slides are still easily viewed.  Imagine trying to find a digital file 40 years later.  You won't.  The physicality of a transparency or a negative is a quality that defines their existence, long after the event took place.  The beauty of photography is that it records memories better than our brains can fix them.  The sad reality that there is going to be a dearth of surviving images from 2002 onward, due to the digital avalanche.  Families record things on cellphones and rarely, if ever, make prints.  Phone goes dead, bye-bye-images, unless you have them backed up somewhere.  The other big difference, is that at our wedding there was one photographer, not 40 wannabe photographers with cell phones. The guests were enjoying the moment, not immersed in a cell-phone (which obviously didn't yet exist). 

The great thing is that the Ektachrome slides have lasted as long as our marriage, and I have hopes that at 50 years, they will still be as vibrant as our marriage.

Also happy Mother's Day to Adrienne.  Our daughter Marjorie is 30 years old.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

The Olympus 35RC - Nearly Perfect Compact 35mm

The Olympus 35RC

This camera certainly hails as one of the gems of 35mm compact rangefinder cameras.  The 35RC has larger siblings with more features, such as the 35RD and 35SP, but the 35RC is the model that you are most likely to run across.  The compact form of this camera does not equate to a lack of features.  Instead, what you have is a small camera that can be taken anywhere and allow you to reliably take photos without a lot of fiddling about.

First appearing in 1970, the Olympus 35RC is a shutter-priority auto-exposure rangefinder camera that has manual over-ride. The shutter speeds range from B, 1/15-1/500 sec. The lens is a 42mm f/2.8 Zuiko lens that focuses from 3 feet to infinity. While the camera's dimensions of 4.5" L x 2.8"H x 2"D is pretty small, the all-metal body has a weight of about 15 ounces. The top-mounted shutter speed dial is easy to use, and has enough settings for most uses.  Having a B setting is especially useful for night photography.  The only oddball thing is that the front filter ring is 43.5mm!  If you can find a step-up ring that would allow the use of a 46mm filter, the ability to mount various filters would be a nice benefit. I used to have the slip-on lens hood, but lost it somewhere.

However, as-is, the 35RC is capable of taking sharp, crisp images with its excellent glass.  All of the controls seem precise.  According the excellent Camera Quest site, the Olympus 35RC is probably the smallest 35mm RF camera with auto-exposure (AE) and manual override.  Both shutter speed and aperture are visible in the viewfinder.  My 35RC's viewfinder has the shutter speed stuck a 1/15 sec, no matter what the setting, but AE works fine at any shutter speed that's set on the top dial. On AE, the shutter will lock if the light is too dim or too bright for the metering range (EV 7-18).  The minimum aperture of f/22 allows faster film to be used at slower shutter speeds.  The ISO range is 25-800, which is pretty much what anyone would need.  Of course, this is a 1970's camera, so no DX-coding is used.  The off switch on the camera's barrel is an excellent feature that saves battery juice and locks the shutter as well. There is automatic flash exposure via the use of Guide Numbers.  That is a great feature that I have only previously seen on the Canon QL-17. In use, you set the Guide Number (GN) to that of the flash, and as you focus, the camera will auto set the aperture, which provides good control of the flash exposure.  Any manual flash can be used. The hot shoe allows flash sync at all shutter speeds - try that with your SLR!

Some Caveats -- 
While the Olympus 35RC originally took a Mercury PX625, you can elect to use a Wein Cell, a hearing-aid battery, or just go with an LR-44 button cell with 1.5V.  If you are using b&w or C-41 film, the exposure difference usually will not matter.  Or, go with a MR-9 Mercury Cell adapter   Note that there are other adapters online with the same name, but do not have the microcircuitry that the Criscam adapter has. The fakes only allow the use of hearing aid cells, not silver-oxide cells.  I have used my 35RC with LR-44 cells and I cannot complain about the exposures.

The manual override does not use the meter - but if your meter is working, you can easily use that for a guide, or just go with sunny-16 if you wish.

There has been some doubt that the 35RC's top shutter speed is actually 1/500 sec, due to it being only a 2-bladed shutter.  My Phochron XA shutter tester gave me the following readings on my camera:
dial      actual
1/15 - 1/14.3
1/30 -  1/29.7
1/60 -  1/60.2
1/125- 1/124
1/250- 1/303
1/500- 1/542 (varied  from 1/530-1/566)

Not too bad, and certainly within the tolerance range. Of course, this is a 45+ year-old camera!

Marc Akemann, 2009 at the Grand Rapids Art Museum
on Ektar 100.
In use, the camera feels precise, and the controls are easy to use.  The camera is small enough that I just used a wrist strap with it.  It fits easily into a jacket pocket, and of course, is a great travel companion.  I think the Olympus 35RC deserves more love. It's certainly a more usable camera than a Rollei 35, and if you can find the appropriate filters and a snap-on lens hood, you will be set for just about anything.  The 42mm focal length is not as wide as some compacts (38 being more common), but it is certainly close to a "normal" lens.  The compact nature of this camera and its simple, yet effective controls make it a classic in any book.  I have previously published posts on this camera, and this will probably be the last one I do on the 35RC, as it is going to the big online auction.  I am trimming down my cameras, and the ones that have been not getting much use lately are leaving. 

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Out and About with the Yashica ME1

A funky little 35mm camera came my way recently, and one that I knew little about, at that.  A Yashica ME1 is an attractive little zone-focus camera manufactured in Japan in 1970 and Brazil, starting in 1977. My example was made in Brazil. What sets this little camera apart from other small 35s, is the clean design of the top plate, which features only a shutter button, hot shoe, and a frame counter.  The film advance wheel is on the lower rear L of the camera, and the film rewind is on the bottom right.  This is an all-black plastic camera that features the typical ASA setting dial around the lens with a CdS cell on the front lens plate.  The film speed settings range from an ISO of 25 to 500.  The 38mm f/2.8 lens is pretty much right there with a slew of other compact 35s that proliferated in the 70s and early 80s.  Like many other cameras of its time, it requires a Mercury PX635 cell to power the camera, but I popped in a LR44, and the camera sprang to life. With b&w and C-341 film, the exposure difference between the two battery voltages should not be a problem.  The shutter speeds range from a paltry 1/60 - 1/360 sec, and the shutter locks if you leave the lenscap on or do not have enough light (nice feature).  The exposure is all automatic, and you look in the viewfinder to see if the needle is in the "green zone."  The self-timer (ca. 8 seconds) is in a typical spot to the right of the lens barrel.  Focus is indicated by the icons, 1m, 1.5m, 3m, and infinity, with feet and meters on the opposite side of the lens.

In the hand, this camera feels very natural,and the bottom L-positioned thumb wheel film advance seems perfect for this little camera. You can wind on and shoot pretty quickly. While its specifications are quite ordinary, it is certainly capable of taking good photographs under typical conditions.  One feature that surprised me is the extra little window in the viewfinder that shows your distance setting and whether you will need to use the parallax correction markings in the bright viewfinder.  That is a nice feature, and the needle in the right side of the window indicates whether your exposure will be adequate.  The red zone means you'll require a flash, or the shutter locks up, unless you set the aperture manually, off the A position.
from the manual via

I loaded a roll of Svema 200 b&w film, and shot a test roll last month.  I developed it in the new FPP Super Monobath for 3.5 min at 24°C.  The Svema film is a bit punchy - contrasty with some grain, but overall, the images look pretty good for basically a p&s 35mm camera.

Elsewhere, I have seen the ME1 compared to the Minolta Hi-Matic G and the Olympus Trip 35, which is a fair comparison.  However, I would give the Hi-Matic a better overall score due to its more robust build. Same for the Trip 35, which is in a class by itself because it does not require batteries, and if you have one that works, you know that it is a great little camera. My example of the Yashica ME1 came with a dented filter ring, which is too bad.  It does take 46mm filters like many other small 35s in its class.  The Yashica ME1 is an attractive little camera, and its Brazilian manufacture makes it an unusual camera among 35mm cameras of the 1970s.   Prices on ebay for this camera range from $15-$55.

Yashica produced over 40 different 35mm non-SLR models, and the Electro 35, Lynx and Minister series are usually the first ones that come to mind. Most are true rangefinder cameras, but a few are zone-focus.  The ME1 is a far different camera than the metal-bodied Electros, being more compact, but still having good Yashica glass.  It's not going to be the be-all compact 35, but it is easy to use, lightweight, and certainly affordable.  Unlike the much larger Electro series, it won't suffer from oddball battery requirements and bad electronics.  Certainly worth a try if you see one in a shop. If you need a manual, it hardly goes without saying that you'll find one at Jim Butkus' site.