Wednesday, August 29, 2018

ONE ROLL REVIEW - Lomochrome Purple XR 100-400

Earlier this year, I was able to purchase a roll of LomoChrome Purple from the Film Photography Project store. For those that are not familiar with this film, it's a C-41 color film that is rated at 100-400 ISO, with the results looking much like a color infrared film.  However, it's not an IR film, but an emulsion that is definitely quite unusual and enables some creative imagery.

Lomography 's LomoChrome Purple XR 100-400 comes in 35mm cassettes and 120 rolls - when it is available.  Like some other Lomography films, it sells out quickly when it is announced. My previous review of LomoChrome Turquoise was based on the only roll I was able to obtain, and that was such an interesting film to experiment with that I wish I'd had a few more. After shooting the one roll of LomoChrome Purple, I wish I had purchased 10 rolls.  This is definitely a fun film to shoot with.  Greens turn to purples and red, blue skies go cyan, and other predictable color shifts and contrast changes occur depending on what ISO you shoot with. Since it is not an IR film, you do not need any filters to get the IR-like effects.

I loaded my Yashica FX-7 Super with a roll while on a trip to Oregon, back in late May.  I set my ISO at 200, figuring it was the best choice, based on the reading I had done.  I shot about half of the roll at the Portland Japanese Garden, and the other half while visiting the famous Multnomah Falls, not that far from Portland. I really did not know what my results would be like, and the exposed film sat in my darkroom for a few months until I got around to doing a bunch of C-41 processing.

After developing, I saw that the film does not have the typical orange base color of a typical C-41 film.  The negatives looked odd, as they should, since this film has strange, but predictable color shifts.   I scanned them with my Epson V700 scanner, and here are some examples from the roll of film:

Obviously, this film isn't for everyone.  Some will deride it because "things don't look that way."  I find it to a lot of fun to shoot with, giving a pleasing and less intense result than from color IR.  The problem is that the film usually is not on the shelves very long, and sells out within a short time.   I should have bought a few more rolls at the outset, and I hope that Lomography runs another batch soon.  The beauty of this and similar films is that it's all done in the camera, not via digital trickery.  In fact, I am not sure one could do this easily in a digital camera.  With the LomoChrome purple -- just point and shoot!

Friday, August 24, 2018

A Quick Review of the Olympus 35 LC Camera

If you ask film users about Olympus 35mm rangefinder cameras, there is no doubt that you'll hear about the popular Olympus 35 RC, the Olympus XA, and probably the Olympus 35 SP. It's unlikely that you'll hear a peep about the Olympus 35 LC.  While the 35 LC was produced from 1967 to perhaps 1970, it just does not seem to be as commonly seen as the subsequent Olympus rangefinder cameras.
Last year, I happened to come across an Olympus rangefinder camera that I had never seen before.  The Olympus 35 LC is an interesting 35mm rangefinder with a CdS light meter.  It's not auto-anything, and is somewhat on the large size, compared to the later Olympus 35 RC.  The 35 LC features a 42mm f/1.7 Zuiko lens, shutter speeds from 1 sec to 1/500 sec + B, an ISO range of 10 to 800, and an easily focused lens with a lever on the lens barrel.  This is a nice all-metal camera, with a very quiet shutter.  There is both a PC socket and a hot shoe for the flash.  The meter needle shows both in the viewfinder and in a window on the top deck of the camera.  The meter requires a mercury cell for 1.3 V, but I used a 1.5V silver-oxide cell, as that will be close-enough for b&w and C-41 films.    The bright-frame viewfinder is large and has parallax correction.  The RF focus patch is easy to see, making the camera a joy to focus.  No squinting into a tiny window with this camera.    Since the CdS meter window is inside the lens ring, you can use filters and the camera will meter through them for proper exposures.

The Olympus 35 LC stands out as being larger than the compact 35 RC.  Released in 1967, it predates the smaller SP and RC rangefinders by 2-3 years.  The 35LC dimensions are  138 mm W x 81 mm H x 70 mm D. Compare that to the 35 RC, which is 110 mm W x 70mm H x 50mm D.  While it's a larger camera, it feels right in the hands, much like a Konica Auto S2. 

The Olympus 35 LC features:

  • Lens: G.Zuiko 42mm f1.7, 7 elements in 5 groups, 55mm filter ring
  • Apertures: f/1.7 - f/16
  • Shutter: Copal-X, speeds B, 1-1/500 sec.
  • Meter: CdS cell, inside the filter thread
  • Viewfinder: Bright frame viewfinder with parallax correction.
  • Film speed: ASA 10 to 800.
  • Self timer: on lens barrel
  • Tripod socket centered 
  • Flash- PC  socket on left side, standard hot shoe, x-sync only
  • Power: 1.3v mercury for meter - I used a 1.5 V cell with good results.
  • Weight: 660 grams.

The meter is actuated by a button on the top right of the rear of the camera body. You can use the top-mounted display to see where your settings are centering the needle (or not), or you can use the display that appears in the viewfinder.  There is no auto setting. 

The camera has a fast 42mm f/1.7 lens.  The 42mm focal length makes it just slightly wider than the standard 50mm that we consider "normal."  By comparison, the Olympus 35 RC has a maximum aperture of f/2.8 with its 42mm lens, which makes it more compact, but definitely not as capable.  The shutter speed range on the 35 LC is B, and 1- 1/500 sec, with all of the standard intervals.  You can use any 55mm screw-on filter, and the CdS cell will give you an accurate reading through the filter. Of course, with a polarizer, you won't be able to see the maximum effect like you would in an SLR.

I find the camera to be pleasant to use. The focus ring has a lever to grip, and the focus range is just under 3 feet to infinity.  The outer ring on the lens barrel comtrols shutter speed, and the inner ring controls aperture. Each has a different feel, making the operation easier without looking.  The shutter is very quiet, and the film advance is a single stroke.  It's not as light as my Olympus Trip 35, but then again, this is a far more capable camera, not a point and shoot.  I love the logo on the front -- rather old-school, and it looks like a quality camera.   I see the 35 LC on eBay for around $100 for good examples.  As a quality camera, this is a steal.

As always, the proof is in the results. 

Marquette, MI, Tri-X

Ann Arbor, MI. Tri-X

Collingwood, Ontario, Polypan-F

Collingwood, Ontario, Polypan-F

Collingwood, Ontario, Polypan-F

Ann Arbor, MI, Polypan-F

Collingwood, Ontario, Polypan-F

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

A Quick Review of the Minolta A5 rangefinder camera

I like the simple large M for the logo!
Minolta had a series of non-automated rangefinder cameras, starting with the Minolta 35 in 1947. The 35 model morphed into a series of ever more sophisticated Leica clones that are typical of many post-war rf cameras from Japan.  They were followed a series of RF cameras that had non-interchangeable lenses beginning with the Minolta A in 1955. The A series have the shutter between the lenses, a viewfinder with the rangefinder patch visible, and a 45mm lens that was either an f/2.8 or f/3.5. The A and A2 were slightly boxy and had a wheel on the top of the camera for setting the shutter.  The A3 had a more sleek and conventional design, and appeared in 1959.  As far as I know, there was no A4, but the A5 was released in 1960, and there were three models:

  • Japanese models - f/2.0 or f/2.8 45mm lenses, B- 1/1000 shutter speed.
  • USA model - 45mm f/2.8 lens and B, 1-1/500 shutter.

The model that I have must be a Japanese version, since it has:
  • 45mm f/2.8 Rokkor, 4 element lens  
  • Citizen shutter, B, 1-1/1000 sec 
  • cold shoe with PC connector on lens, m and X-sync

Later models of the A5 have a hot shoe (about 1965-66).

None of the A series cameras have any sort of meter, and therefore, do not need batteries.  With it being an all-mechanical camera, you are spared the aging selenium or CdS meters, non-obtainable batteries, and/or electrical problems of the more automated cameras of that time. The Minolta A5 was the last model before the Hi-Matics were introduced in 1962.

This is a nice all-mechanical RF camera with a Citizen between the lens shutter. With its bright viewfinder, easy opperation, and impressive range of shutter speeds, it's a fun camera to take anywhere.  No meter? No problem -- sunny-16, external meter, or the Black Cat Exposure Guide.

I find the A5 quite easy to use, and its control layout is simple. The apertures range from f/2.8- f/22, and the 45mm Rokkor lens is sharp!  There is an exposure counter on the top deck, and I like the way the rewind lever folds down as to not catch on anything.  The self-timer and X or M flash synch are located on the lens barrel.  The rings for the shutter speed and aperture are easily turned, and the focus ring has a nice little bump out to rest your thumb on. It has an extremely quiet operation. There is a film speed reminder wheel on the back door of the camera, and a tripod socket and rewind release on the bottom plate. The serial number of my camera is 125061.

Here are some scans from a recent roll of Svema 125 C-41 film that I shot.

I don't know how often the 1/1000 version turns up, but it certainly is a nice camera to shoot with. You can also find a nice review of the A5 at Mike Eckman's excellent site.

Wednesday, August 08, 2018

In Praise of the Nikon F

First released in 1959, the Nikon F became the dominant SLR among professionals due to its ruggedness, reliability, full complement of accessories, and ease of use.  The modular approach with different viewfinders allowed Nikon to upgrade the metering system without having to revamp an entire camera. The Nikon F was discontinued in 1974, after being replaced by the F2 in 1971. Fifteen years is a long time, and while the F was certainly not the only Nikon SLR produced over that span, it remains an iconic SLR. Over 860,000 Nikon F bodies were produced in that time, and I wonder how many are still working today. My guess is that most of them do.

The Nikon F was the first Japanese SLR to have:

  • 100% coverage in the viewfinder
  • Mirror Lockup
  • Interchangeable focus screens
  • Full Pro system from day 1 (a huge range of lenses on day 1)
  • 250 exposure back
  • electric motorized winder that could be attached to the body
  • titanium foil shutter

I'm not going to provide an exhaustive history of the Nikon F, as it's certainly covered elsewhere on the web and in various publications.  For some great resources, check out the following two books:

  1. The New Nikon Compendium. Stafford, Hillebrand, & Hauschild. 2004. Lark Books, NY. 415 pp. ISBN-1-57990-592-7
  2. Nikon F Nikkormat Handbook of Photography. Cooper and Abbott. 1968. Amphoto. (ring bound with 14 chapters + index).

and web sites:

Okay, back to my story. I first held a Nikon F around 2000-2001, when I was moving a bunch of equipment around where I worked at the UM Museum of Zoology.  A Photomic F belonged to a curator who had used it extensively in Australia in the late 1960s, and through the 1980s.  The worn leather bag held the camera and 3 lenses - 50mm f/2, 55mm micro-Nikkor, and the 200mm f/4, as well as an M extension tube.  That was my first contact with the camera, and while I thought the Nikon F with the Photomic finder was ungainly, the view through the lens was fantastic.  Plus, what was with the funky twist and turn when I mounted the lens?  Compare the Nikon twist with the predominant M-42 mount that was available in 1959, and one can see how much better it was.  The "Nikon twist" - was to index the lens to the maximum aperture, which all of the non-AI lenses required with the Photomic finders on the F and F2, as well as the Nikkormats (until the FT-3).  AI lenses - Auto-Indexing, which came later, was achieved with a small tab on the base of the lens that engaged a matching cam on the lens mount. If you had a plain prism or waist-level finder on the F, you did not have to index the lens. 

I found that old camera to be a challenge, but I was already a Nikon fan, having been the recipent of an N-50 and lenses from my mentor, Bill Brudon.  I eventually was given a Nikon F by someone that was cleaning out his accumulation of "stuff." It too, was a Nikon F with the Photomic finder.  Later, I bought an F2 which I used for quite a while. 

Over the years since, several Nikon Fs have come my way.  While the metered Photomic finders may have had problems, the bodies did not. My daughter also liked the Nikon F with a plain prism.  It was simple, less heavy than the Photomic version, and just looked awesome.  No meter? No problem, sunny-16 or a hand-held meter.

For a while, I divested myself of any Fs and then earlier this year, this lovely Nikon F with a nice plain prism found me.  I'm keeping this one.  It is a superb example of the iconic camera.  Plus, with a 50mm f/2 Nikkor-H lens, it's a lot of fun to shoot with. 

Using a Nikon F with the plain prism is as basic as you can get.  No meter, only the aperture ring on the lens, the shutter speed dial, and the shutter button, and film advance. It is very similar to using a Leica M2 in that aspect.  The Titanium-foil shutters of the Nikon F seem to last forever, unlike the cloth and rubber shutters found on the Pentax Spotmatics. 

The only area where the F is lacking would be in using a flash.  Because the finders are removable and interchangeable, the flash contacts are over by the rewind crank.  To use a flash connected directly to the camera with a hot shoe, you need the AS-1 flash adapter, which works with any flash with a standard hot shoe.  The original Nikon F flash adapter is a cold-shoe, and you connect to the X-sync PC socket on the body with a short cable.  You can also use a flash attached to a flash holder that screws onto the tripod socket, which also requires a PC cord.  The big potato-masher flashes of years past were connected this way. Flash sync is 1/60 sec, slow by today's standards. 

You may also be a bit confused on how to rewind the film, as there is no release on the bottom of the camera.  The collar that surrounds the shutter release button is rotated to "R" to rewind. Make sure it is rotated back to "A" to advance the film.  If you want to use a cable release with the F, you'll need to find a Leica-style cable release, or an adapter that screws onto the collar to allow a standard cable release to fit.  These are minor quirks that F users are familiar with.

If you have a Nikon F with the metered prism, such as the Photomic, you'll have to use hearing-aid batteries (zinc-air), because the meters required mercury cells. Of course, you can use Alkaline cells, and if you are using C-41 film, it probably won't make much of a difference in your results.  In addition, due to the age of the finders, they may not work at all, or be unreliable.  This is why I prefer the plain prism finder.

I took my F along on a trip to Collingwood, Ontario last month.  Sometimes I used a hand-held meter, sometimes I used sunny-16, and trusted my instincts.  I shot a couple of rolls of film, one of them being Fomapan 100, which I developed in HC110-B.  Here are a few images from that roll. 

I found the camera to be a joy to use, and its robust yet ergonomic construction just invites one to use it.  There is no chintzy feel to this camera whatsoever.   In fact, it could stop a bullet.    I only need mine to stop time for a fraction of a second.  It does that quite well.

Wednesday, August 01, 2018

Kodak Master Photoguide - Filmtastic Resource!

When I got my first SLR, an Exa Ia, in 1973, I was eager to learn as much as I could about photography.  I don't recall what books I may have looked at in high school, but I did buy a current (at the time) Kodak Master Photoguide.  That little black pocket-sized ringbound book served me well for years, and I still have it tucked away somewhere.  For the longest time, it was my only photographic resource. When I think about it,  never had a light meter, and the Exa IIa had a very limited range of shutter speeds.  The Master Photoguide was my source for exposures, flash photography, and Kodak film information. 

My most recent example of the Master Photoguide dates from 1981, and I don't know how much later they were produced, but I would assume that they stopped making them by the late 1990s.  Back in the day, it was (and still is) a good thing to have in your camera bag.  If you are new to manual film cameras, the Master Photoguide is an easy way to have a lot of information at hand. 

There were subtle changes in the Master Photoguide over the years, as camera and film technology changed.  I like the older ones that actually had the filter gels in the page.  That makes them useful for seeing how a filter changes how the image looks to your eye.  The guide also has the "filter factor" chart to adjust your exposure for a given filter.  If you have a meterless camera such as a Nikon F with a plain prism, a Kodak Retina IIa, or a Yashica A TLR, the guide is quite handy. 

To me, the genius of the guide is that all of the subjects are located by the tabs at the edge of the page.  A quick looks takes you right to the appropriate topic.  Secondly, the guide has the essential information that a photographer needs without the fluff that may be found in a much larger book.

1966 version with color gels
 While a lot of old Kodak publications can be found online as  PDF files, the Master Photoguides have wheels inside that you move to get the appropriate exposure, as in the daylight exposure dial.  That makes the real thing all the more desirable.The durable covers and binding will give you years of service, and my old beat-up guide is 45 years old!

I did a brief look online, and the Master Photoguides now sell for more than they did when new.  They are often most encountered in old camera bags and thrift shops, so keep your eyes open for the various editions.  The most recent one has a silvery cover, and is easily identified. 
the tabs are very handy.
The daylight exposure guide looks suspiciously like it is based on Sunny-16.  Yes, it is!