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.

Thursday, January 03, 2019

The Fujica STX-1 SLR

 Of all the different cameras that I have handled over the years, I confess that I have not shot with many SLR cameras made by Fuji Photo Film.  In 2007, I briefly shot with a  Fujica ST 801, which is an M42-mount SLR with some nice features. That camera was part of an estate sale that was eventually sold, and I put one roll of film through it.  Last fall, I was going through donations of cameras for the Film Photography Project, and opened a box with a Fujica STX-1 camera and two lenses. We could not get the camera to work, so I brought it home to see if I could get it working.  I opened the bottom plate and saw that a cam was not engaging. I slipped it back into place, and now the camera works just fine!  That gave me the opportunity to shoot with the camera for a bit before it goes back into the FPP School Donation Program.

Evolution of the Fuji SLRs
Fuji Photo Film started producing SLR cameras in 1962 with their Fujicarex leaf-shutter SLR, which was followed by the Fujicarex II in 1963.  They were innovative, with the controls for the exposure and focus made via thumbwheels on the back plate.  The cameras had other quirks, and like most leaf-shutter SLRs from the 1960s, they were limited in lenses, shutter speed, and were left behind by the focal-plane shutter SLRs.  Today, they are somewhat rare, and probably rarely work well.

In the days when many SLR camera manufacturers that were not Nikon, Canon, Topcon, Miranda, Minolta, or Olympus, the M42 mount (or Praktica screw mount, or Pentax Screw Mount, or just M42) was the “other” mount.  Fuji came out with their series of ST models which used the M42 mount.  The ST701 appeared in 1971, followed by the ST 801 in 1973.  The ST 901 appeared in 1974, and featured Aperture-Priority exposure.  The ST 605 appeared in 1976, and the ST 705 came out in 1977. All of these models have cloth horizontal shutters, are well-made, and use match-needle metering visible in the finder.  The exception is the ST 801, which was the first SLR to use diodes in the finder instead of a match-needle and scale.   The Fujica AZ-1 was their last M42-mount camera, which featured Aperture-Priority, TTL auto-exposure, and was the first SLR to be sold with a zoom lens (43-75mm) as the kit lens. 

Nearing the end of the 70s, the demand for more features such as full-aperture metering and easier lens mounting,  led to the abandonment by Fuji of the M42 mount and the adoption of a new mount, the Fuji X-mount (not to be confused with the x-mount of the current Fuji digital mirrorless cameras).  Fuji introduced their new system with the STX-1 in 1979.  There were a limited number of x-mount lenses available, and the STX-1 came with a 55mm f/2.2 X-Fujinon lens.  The odd thing is that the shutter speeds go from B, to ½- 1/700th sec.  Again, a cloth focal plane shutter.  Match-needle metering, visible in the viewfinder.  There is a depth of field preview button above the self-timer arm.  The camera is fully manual, and the flash sync speed is 1/60th sec.  There is a locking collar around the shutter release, preventing inadvertent releases.  The camera has a clean design – I would say that while it is not a “spectacular” SLR, it does what it does well.  The meter is engaged when you press halfway-down on the shutter, and the match needle is easy to see on the right side of the viewfinder.  On the left side of the viewfinder you can see the shutter speeds.  I like the meter markings, which are handy in adjusting the exposure.  As a full-manual camera, it is pretty much perfect.  The film advance lever is well-designed and comfortable to use.   The camera requires 2 S-76  or SR-44 cells to power the meter. The only oddball thing is that the tripod socket is not centered on the camera, and is to the left.   The camera was received with the 55mm f2.2 lens and a 28mm f/2.8 Fujinon-x lens.
Clean design and controls

Through the viewfinder

The X-mount continued with the AX series, which started with the AX-1 in 1980, followed by the AX-3 and AX-5.  These cameras all have more automation and features than the STX-1. The STX-2  was introduced in 1985, and the AX-5 Multi-Program appeared in 1985, and they were the last of the 35mm SLRs made with the Fuji X-mount.  The STX-2 was sold as the Fuji STX-2, and not Fujica.

Fuji Photo Film Co. has produced some amazing cameras over the years, especially in the medium format area.  While first and foremost a film producer, they did produce some very fine lenses and cameras.  I can understand why they stopped producing 35mm SLRs in the mid-1980s.  The market was dominated by Nikon, Canon, Pentax, Minolta and Olympus.  While the Fujica SLRs were reliable, sturdy, and certainly had the typical features that one needed, I suspect that Fuji felt they could produce  cameras where there was less competition – and so we had some excellent medium format cameras and lenses.  In using the STX-1, I found the camera to handle very well, but certainly not much different than any other compact SLRs from the early 1980s.   The 1/700th sec shutter speed is odd, and that was   rectified by the STX-2 with a max shutter speed of 1/1000 sec.  Had Fuji adopted the Copal Square vertical shutter rather than the horizontal cloth shutter, they might have had a longer run with 35mm, but by the mid-1980s, it was pretty much Nikon, Pentax, Canon, or Minolta for people looking to buy a 35mm SLR as a system camera.

You could do far worse than the Fujica 35mm SLRs.  If you are looking for an inexpensive manual 35mm SLR, the ST 801 or the STX-1 are certainly worthwhile purchases.  The X-mount lenses were only produced for about 6 years, so there are fewer of them out there.   The advantage of the ST 801 might be the plethora of M42-mount lenses that are available.   One review makes the case for the ST 801 as the best M-42 mount SLR available. I have to agree, based upon what I have seen over the years.

You should be able to find an STX-1 on ebay for less than $50.

Here are a few samples taken with the STX-1 on Ultrafine Xtreme 400 film.

A few more examples from Kodak T400 CN film (expired) (added 06/27/19).  

Tuesday, January 01, 2019

Happy New Year!

I am sitting here at my computer writing this with a cat on my lap. Johan, my furry buddy, seems to think that is the best place to be. It makes typing a bit awkward, but he's not been feeling well the past few days, so I'll put up with it. Eventually, he moves around behind me on the seat, which probably helps my sitting posture.

Last year seems like only yesterday, and it was quite a year. My first year of retirement was filled with lots of travel, lots of photography, and personally, was quite good. I still think about my friend Marc, and wish I could share some of my adventures with him. I think my film photography was extremely prolific, with at least 120 rolls shot. Between testing new films, old cameras, and travel, I was also doing a lot of film developing. Of course, I scan my negatives, and while I have my darkroom and enlarger, I rarely print just for the sake of printing. I only make prints if I have a project in mind. Film photography is gaining more press and more traction, and I think most of would agree that the variety of film stocks (especially in b&w) keeps increasing. I hope that 2019 sees some great new products on the market.

Speaking of darkrooms… my most important acquisition has been the sous vide heater for doing C-41, ECN-2, and E-6 developing. It's been an incredible water and time saver, not to mention, giving me great uniformity in my developing process. While I bought mine on Amazon for about $70, The FPP is selling one for about $50. Of course, if you are doing stand development in regular b&w chemistry, the unit is even more desirable, especially if your workspace is chilly.

This year will see some big changes in my life, as we are preparing to sell our home and move to the Asheville, NC area. As we look at houses, it will be important for me to have darkroom and studio space. Analog photography processes will be an important aspect of my life, and I will continue to be advocating for traditional processes. We will have lived in Michigan for 38 years this May, and while we have greatly enjoyed Michigan, Adrienne and I are looking forward to new adventures elsewhere. She retired from her job yesterday, and now both of us are “pensioners.” We both grew up in New York State, and miss the terrain, but not the long winters, so the Appalachians are calling to us, and Asheville is a good fit. We probably won't be moving until mid-year, and in the interim, I have lots to do. 

Due to the impending move I'll probably be selling some of my camera gear on eBay that I am not using. Just look for argusmaniac on eBay, and you can see my auctions. Moving a household is filled with making decisions on what to move. In addition, we are having some home renovations done, which of course means moving things around within the house. That's a great motivator to reduce the “clutter.” No, I am NOT selling my big Seal dry-mount press!

I have plenty of camera reviews lined up for 2019, and hopefully, more travelogues and photos to accompany them.

Here's to a good year!