Monday, September 30, 2019

Holga Week 2019!

Well, Holga Week is almost upon us, as October 1-7 is Holga Week, meaning that it starts tomorrow!    It was not too long ago that we thought the Holga was dead.  In 2015, we were told that it was no longer going to being manufactured, but alas, in late 2016, we were told that no, the 120N was going to be manufactured again, but in a different factory, thanks to Freestyle Photo

I have been using the basic Holga since about 2002.  In the beginning, they were very inexpensive, and as cameras go, they still are relatively cheap to own. I recall buying one new for $15, but now the 120N sells for about $40.  It's still my favorite low-fi camera for a lot of reasons, and I own a half-dozen of the 120 models.   I have owned the Holga 120 wide pinhole, and still have the Holga 135 pan and Holga 135.  Their plastic construction and plastic lens is about as basic as you can get. Yet, the images made with them can be jaw-dropping beautiful.  Just take a look at the Holga images from Michael Kenna, and you'll see what I mean.  Yes, people have maligned the Holga for its cheapness, but I say it's because they don't understand that it's just a tool.  I have exhibited Holga images at several shows over the years, and still feel that the Holga is a camera that lets one be creative and it just takes a while to figure out how to make it work its magic. 
Tall Ships, Marquette, MI 2016

Kalamazoo, MI,  2016

Fishtown, Leland, MI, 2016 
Fishtown, Leland, MI, 2016 

Amenia, NY 2016

Letchworth State Park, NY, 2016

The Holga 120N is easily modded, and a quick web search will reveal a lot of ways that it's been modified by people. This summer I modified one my Holgas to have a hexagonal image mask.  I am doing a long-term project with it, and hope to have some interesting results to share later this year.  A lot of people have asked if the Holga is a good introduction to medium format photography.  My answer is no.  Your expectation of medium format is a larger, more detailed negative -- and you'll get that with a twin-lens reflex as the entry to medium format.  The Holga and the Diana and similar low-fi 120 cameras will give you something, but you need to know the limitations and make them work for you in composition, lighting, and subject. 

Holga Pinhole 120W, Ann Arbor, 2015
Another point is that because the Holga has limited adjustments for exposure, you can easily tape a colored orange, yellow, or red gel over the lens to compensate in b&w film, or use a Neutral density filter for color (and yes, it works for b&w, too).   You can also use an external flash for poorly lit situations, or use the B setting while on a sturdy tripod for long exposures.  An adapter allows you to use studio strobes for anyone wishing to do so. 

Mason, MI, 2014

While the Holga is basically a box camera, it is far easier to use than a Kodak Brownie, easily modified, and takes readily available 120 film.  In bright daylight, 100 ISO film is fine, bit 400 ISO film will be fine in most situations.  If you haven't used a Holga before, don't sweat it.  Before long, you'll appreciate its quirky features, and think less about the use, and more about the image.  Light leaks?  I just use artist's black masking tape or gaffer tape.  My biggest fear is that the back will come loose, so I use gaffer tape over the metal clasp on each side to avoid that.

So, get out that Holga, whatever type it is, and shoot away this week!

Holga 135 Pan,  Sharon Twp., MI 2012

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Batteries and Cameras!

I thought it might be useful to publish a post with useful information about film cameras and batteries.  After handling many hundreds of cameras over the course of years of  selling estates and getting cameras ready for the FPP School Donation Program, as well as doing my own thing with my own photography, I find that it's been an overlooked topic, so I hope that you find this a helpful resource.
A typical manual SLR needs just  1.5 - 3V to run the exposure system

One of the things about using film vs digital cameras, is that in general, film cameras need far less power than their digital counterparts. Don't forget that that digital wonder is basically a small computer with a viewing screen, operating an auto-focus system.  All that takes a considerable amount of stored energy in a battery such that digital cameras usually operate with rechargeable Lithium-ion (Li-on) or Nickel-Metal Hydride (NiMH) batteries.  Since film cameras usually need far less power, they typically use small button or penlight cells. In fact, film cameras that lack meters or any electrical operation do not need any battery power at all. A Nikon F only needs a couple of button cells to operate the Photomic head with a meter.  It can easily be used without any battery power whatsoever. An Argus C3 doesn't need a battery, nor does a Leica M3.  Most SLR cameras that were sold before the late 1970s only need a battery to power the light meter, and lacking that, work just fine without power, although you may need an external light meter or maybe you just want to use Sunny-16 or the Black Cat Exposure Chart.  Once the 1980s kicked in, cameras became more sophisticated, and required more power, especially if the camera is an auto-focus model.  All those little motors in the lenses, film winding/rewinding, exposure systems, and flashes require more power, which led to larger batteries or battery packs in the camera bodies.  In many SLR systems, an external winder may use 4-8 AA cells, which of course adds significant weight.  As manufacturers refined the winding systems, by the time auto-focus SLRs became available, the power to run them was contained in a 6V battery, or 2 3V batteries that fit easily into the grip.

Adding automation requires more computing/battery power.

Light meters have typically required one or two button cells in a camera. Before the 1980s, cameras that required power for the light meter almost always used Mercury cells.  The reason is that Mercury cells gave out a continuous 1.35 V and lasted a long time, and when they went dead, that was it. There was no slow decline in voltage that would give bad meter readings. Then, Mercury compounds were found to leach into the waste systems in landfills, etc., and the Mercury cells were banned.  Probably far more cells were used in those light-up sneakers that kids wore than all the cameras ever made. Anyhow, that was the end of them, and older cameras that used those cells were often replaced with newer models by the owners, or the owners scoured the stores for old stock Mercury cells. Old stock cells were still available online until at least 2002.

Cell versus Battery
People often call 1.5 v cells batteries, but technically, they are not. A battery is a group of cells producing a larger output of power than a single cell.  Button cells, AA, AAA, C, D cells are not batteries.  A 9V transistor battery IS a battery, as are any of the batteries that are more than 1.35 or 1.5V. Your 12 volt car battery contains a bunch of lead-acid powered cells that when joined together, provides 12 volts. Generally, we just lump these power sources under the term battery in common usage, but it's good to know the difference.

Button Cells
Button cells are extremely common in film cameras, especially SLRs, where they typically power the meter and some electronics.  They are ubiquitous, and their compact size and 1.5V output usually has them installed in cameras in pairs, so that they provide a 3V output.  The most common size is the Alkaline LR-44 cell, followed by the 76S - which is identical in size to the LR-44, but is a Silver-Oxide cell that provides 1.55V with a longer life than the LR-44. A less common button cell in later cameras is the PX-625A. It's now mostly used to replace the PX-625 Mercury cells, but it has a higher voltage than the cell it replaces which may cause meters to be a stop or so off in the readout.

AAA and AA cells
Yes, these are what us old-timers call penlight batteries.  They are most typically used to power flashes, and in many older point-and shoots, they provide all the power for the camera functions.  Some auto-focus SLRs used them too. The Nikon F100, N90, N8008, and the N2000 all use AA cells as they provide enough power for many rolls of film before they poop out.  In addition, the AA and AAA cells are easy to find, unlike some of the esoteric batteries that I will now discuss.

Lithium batteries.
These batteries use more modern technology to deliver lots of power yet, remain compact enough to use in a camera. The late 1980s saw these start to be used in a variety of caameras, but most notably in consumer-level auto-focus SLR cameras. There are a bewildering number of battery types out there, and sometimes you'll find an oddball battery that may cost as much as your $15 Nikon that you found at the thrift shop.

Nickel Metal Hydride - NiMH Batteries
Typically, these are rechargeable cells, such as AA and AAA.  They can be used in place of the Alkaline cells of the same size, and the prices are very low.  They make a lot of sense for power-hungry flash units, and can usually be recharged a at least a hundred times before they need to be replaced.

Oddball Alkaline batteries 
The first one that comes to mind is the 6V 4LR44 battery which is used in the Canon AE-1 and AE-1 Program, as well as the Pentax 6x7.  Another is the 6V PX27G.  In some cases you can take 4 LR-44 cells and tape them together to replace a 4LR44 battery (which seems to be the reason for that designation).  If you have a Yashica rangefinder camera, you'll also be looking for oddball cells, so look at for more information on your Yashica rangefinder camera.

Nickel-Cadmium cells
NiCds were popular in the 1970-80s for rechargeable battery packs, especially in professional cameras such as the Hasselblad EL, the Rolleiflex SLX, and in various flash units.  They fell out of favor when Lithium-ion and Ni-MH cells became more common and cheaper in the 1990s.  NiCds also have fewer recharge cycles than the newer technologies.  However, in some of the cameras that required them, you can still source re-built NiCd packs.  Cadmium is a toxic metal, and the old cells need to be disposed of safely.  Some cameras that took AA alkaline cells warn against using NiCd cells because they typically only provide 1.2V each.

What about those cameras (and light meters) that used Mercury Cells?
There are a few solutions:
1. Replace the cell(s) with an Alkaline equivalent.  The PX-625A is going to be the most common replacement.  Of course, it will provide 1.5, not 1.3 volts, and may affect your meter reading.  Some cameras use a circuit that the higher voltage still gives an accurate reading. You can compensate with the cameras that are affected by setting your ISO dial to a one stop lower setting.  That is, if you are using ISO 400 film, set the dial to ISO 200.  To be honest, with C-41 films and most black and white films, there is enough latitude that it won't make a huge difference.  You can check it against sunny-16 using a gray card and see what your meter reads. If it's off, you'll know what direction to change it.
2. Replace with a Wein cell - these are basically a modified Zinc-air hearing aid cell with an adaptor to fit the PX-625 chamber.
3. Replace with an appropriate-sized Zinc-air hearing aid cell, and use a spacer to keep the cell in place in the battery chamber. The Duracell 675 hearing aid battery will work in many of the cameras and light meters that require a mercury cell. You may have to shim it in place to not move around.
4. Purchase an MR-9 adapter ( and use a 76S or LR-44 cell.  The MR-9 adapter contains a diode that drops the voltage to 1.3V, and while it may seem a bit pricey, it can be moved from camera to camera as needed.  It's the best solution if you want to use a Luna Pro light meter.
5. You can use the camera without powering the light meter, and use an external meter instead.  However, some cameras, such as the Nikon FE, require power to fire the shutter at any speed because the aperture-priority mode requires power, whereas the Nikon FM is fully manual, and the shutter can work without power. The Pentax K1000 and the Pentax Spotmatics are also fine without using a battery for the meter, as are most M42-mount SLRs.  Many of the older Canon  SLRs such as the FTb work fine battery-less.  You just have to use an external meter.

There are numerous cameras that used solar cells to power the exposure system.  The Olympus Trip 35, Konica EYE, and the Canon DEMI are good examples.  Most of the examples date from the 1960s and 70s.  A ring of cells around the front of the lens is a sure bet that the camera is powered by a Selenium meter.

It makes good sense to store your camera without the cells or battery in it if you are not going to use it for awhile.  This holds especially true for cameras that use AA aand AAA cells - which will leak over time and ruin the camera.  I can't stress this enough. I have seen far too many contacts ruined to the point of no-return by leaking AA cells.  Whether it's a camera or a flash unit, remove the cells before you put it away for any length of time.  Button cells seem much less likely to cause problems in storage, nor do Lithium batteries.  The real culprits are the AA and AAA cells which can do the damage when they leak over time.

You can store fresh batteries in in the fridge if you wish to prolong their storage life, but I have never tried it to see if it makes a difference.  Certainly high-heat will degrade them, since chemical reactions are accelerated by higher temperatures.

With the advent of digital photography, the market for camera batteries shifted to rechargeables, and the prices for non-rechargeable camera batteries have gone up.  If you look for a CR123A battery at your local store, be prepared for sticker shock.  I buy most of my button cells and Lithium batteries online, either via Amazon or eBay.  A pack of 100 LR-44 cells can be had for less than $15 online.  There are plenty of online sources for batteries, but I still buy my AA and AAA cells  locally.

BATTERY CROSS-REFERENCE CHART - Not all manufacturers use the same numeric designation for a particular size, but this chart will be helpful.

CAMERAS AND POWER SOURCES (obviously NOT a complete list, but it's a starting point)

PX-625 Mercury cells:
NIKON - F Photomic prism, Nikkormat FT, FTN;
CANON- QL-17, EXEE, F-1, FT QL, FTb, FX, Canonet 28, TL, TLb, TX
MINOLTA - SR-T series, Hi-Matic 7, 7S, 7SII, 9;
PETRI - Color 35,
KONICA - Auto S, Auto S2, Auto S3, Autoreflex T, Autoreflex TC, C35, FP,

PX-400 Mercury cells 
A great number of Pentax Spotmatics used this size Mercury cell.  However, you can use a silver-oxide cell without fear of affecting the exposure accuracy.  The Spotmatics use a bridge circuit so that whether the source is 1.35V or 1.5V, you'll get the same result.  I recommend using a 392 (LR-41) silver-oxide cell for the Spotmatic SP series, and a PX625A for the Spotmatic F.

PX-27 Mercury batteries (5.6V)
MINOX LX, Minox 35 series;

LR-44 or S-76 cells (1.5V) 
(Typically there are 2 in series, for 3V total. You can often use a 1/3N battery, which replaces 2 LR-44 cells. They tend to be more expensive than the 2 LR-44s , though.)

NIKON - Nikkormat FT2, FT3; Nikon FM, FE, F2, F3, FM2, FM2N, FE2, FA, EM, FG, FG-20, FM3A, FM-10
OLYMPUS - XA series, OM-2, OM-10, OM-4, OM-PC
PENTAX - K1000, ME, MG, LX, Super Program, P30T,
MINOLTA - X370, X570, X700; CLE, XD series, XG series,
YASHICA - CONTAX - Contax 139, Yashica FX D, FX-3, FX-7,

CANON- AF35ML, Sure Shot AF10, T-50, T-70, T-90
NIKON - N4004, N8008, N90, F100, F4, F5, L135AF,


4LR44 (6V)(= PX28, A544, 476A)
CANON AE-1, AE-1P, A-1, New F-1, AT-1, AV-1
NIKON Nikkormat EL, EL2
YASHICA Electro 35CC, Yashica FR, Yashica FX-1,

CR-2 Batteries (3V) (Most SLRs use 2)
NIKON- APS Pronea 6i, N55, N65, N75
PENTAX - MZ-S, Z-5, MZ-10, ZX-10,
CANON-  Rebel 2000,  Rebel K2, EOS IX, Sure Shot 130u, Sure Shot Classic 120
MINOLTA - QTSi, XTSi, Maxxum 5, HTSi 
CONTAX G1, G2, T3,

CR-123A (3V) (Most SLRs use 2)
NIKON - N60, N80, N70, One-Touch 90 Zoom,
CANON - EOS Rebel G, ELAN 7, EOS 30v, Sure-Shot 105 zoom, Sure Shot 60 zoom, Sure Shot 70 zoom, Sure Shot 80 zoom, Sure Shot A-1, WP-1, Sure Shot M, Sure Shot Max
MINOLTA - Maxxum 7, Maxxum 9

CR-223 or DL223A (6V)
may replace 2 CR-123 in some cameras

2CR-5 (6V)
CANON- EOS 650, EOS 620, 750, 850, 100, EOS 3, A2E, Sure Shot Zoom XL, EOS-1V
NIKON - N50, N6006
MINOLTA - 7000i, 9xi
PENTAX- SFX, SF-1; SF-7, SF-10;
KONICA Hexar, Yashica T2

Okay, you have read this far!  If you have a fully manual, non-meter camera such as this one, no battery needed!   You are ready for that desert island trip.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

One Roll Review- Dubblefilm's Moonstruck

It's hard to keep up with what's going on in the altered film market, with so many new releases from at least four sources.  Altered films are standard color C-41 films produced by Kodak and Fuji that are then subjected to either a chemical process or modified with laser or other light to become something altogether different from the standard emulsion.  Companies such as Dubblefilm, Yodica, Revolog, and Kono!, have brought these to market to bring some fun, serendipity, and zaniness to film shooters.  Perhaps you are looking for something different to change up your shooting, and one of the altered films may be just the thing.  First of all, none of these companies actually manufacture film. They are treating ho-hum everyday color films such as Kodak Gold 200 with whatever process they are using to give you something different.  Color shifts, weird patterns, or bands of color may be the result. Maybe that unpredictability isn't your thing, but I can bet that it will appeal to people that are looking for something fun and different.

I have only tried Revolog's Tesla film prior to using the Dubblefilm. It was for a film-swap event with the Ann Arbor Crappy Camera Club, and I was really surprised and pleased with the results.  Redscale is a popular way to shoot color differently, but the film has not been altered, just re-spooled so that the light passes through the film base before reaching the emulsion. 

Dubblefilm is owned by Adam Scott, and the film is shipped from Europe.  Expect to pay far more than you would for a standard roll of C-41 color film.  Like I said, it's not for everyone.  Any of the altered films range from $10-$15/roll US. Considering that the film has been pre-treated, etc., I think that the price is reasonable.  I purchased my roll of "Moonstruck" at Camera Mall in Ann Arbor, and shot it in late May 2019.  Dubblefilms are available at the FPP store as well as Freestyle Photo.

I loaded the film into my Canon AE-1 Program, and shot it on the streets of Yspilanti and Ann Arbor MI.  I sent it out to The Darkroom for developing, and I scanned the negatives in just this morning. Overall, I really didn't know what to expect, since I hadn't looked at any other results online until today.

Dubblefilm's lineup has changed, and Moonstruck is no longer available.  Like any of these altered films, how you expose it, your choice of subject, and the light source may give different results compared to what others have achieved.  It uses standard C-41 processing, and you may want to scan it yourself to avoid machine scans that try to "normalize" the results.

Here is a sample of the images that I got from my scans.  I did do minor brightness/contrast adjustments, but no color adjustments.

Overall, I think the results are interesting, with red hues really popping.  The images do give me a different look than conventional color film, and since the production of the altered films involve repeatable processes, I can see where someone may want to order a batch of any particular film and be assured of getting similar results as they shoot it. Also, since these films are produced in small batches, you may not be able to get more of a certain type of effect if it is sold out.  So, my suggestion is to buy a few rolls if you like a certain effect. Almost all of the altered films have examples on Flickr. 

Are altered films just a fad or are they here to stay?  So long as there is a market for them, I suppose the sellers will keep making them.  But, as with any of these operations, they are just a few people (or only one) doing all the work to get something magical in your camera.  Expect that any particular film may not be available in a year from now.   I find that they are fun, and certainly can add something different to your photography.

Saturday, September 07, 2019


I have always  been fascinated with trees -- their form, the shadows that result from them, and the fantastic moods that they can create, along with whatever weather is impacting them. Of course, as we now head towards autumn later this month -- the autumnal equinox, many trees are starting to exhibit that change towards the fall colors that we so love to see.   I grew up in the Adirondacks of New York, and even as a child, I loved the big sugar maples along our driveway blazing forth with brilliant oranges and reds.  In the northeast, fall was a glorious time of year with crisp mornings and slightly warm afternoons, until heavy frosts took their toll and the leaves dropped like snowflakes.  When my wife and I moved to Michigan in 1981, fall color was a bit of a disappointment in the lower part of the state, as the predominant oak-hickory forest was more subtle in its colors.  One really needs to travel north in Michigan to see the wonderful climax of color that's found in aspen-birch-maple forests.  Now, we are living in the mountains of Western North Carolina, and this will be our first fall and winter in the South.  I know that we will get some good color here in late October, and I look forward to shooting it and traveling around the nearby Appalachians.

"A woodland in full color is awesome as a forest fire, in magnitude at least, but a single tree is like a dancing tongue of flame to warm the heart." -- Hal Borland

However, trees are more than just color. Think of the myriad of forms and the different times of the year that a deciduous tree can look so different, and the arrangement of branches makes a species identifiable in the field.  When I was a forestry student, we had to identify at least 75 species of trees and shrubs by their leaves, fruit, buds, bark, etc., and of course also know their Latin names.  That course was a lot of fun, and also quite challenging.  I have never regretted any of those hands-on field classes in botany and zoology. All have been a part of my world since, and while I may not always know what a plant or an insect is, I know how to find out.   My point is, that you have two eyes, yet many people don't know how to look.  As a photographer, you should be seeing more than just the forest -- you also need to pick out the trees.  Seeing and understanding what you are seeing makes for a better image.  Deciphering the scene before you press the shutter button can result in a more  meaningful image.  I'm not saying I do that all the time, but when I do, I know that I am more in control of the final result on film or the sensor.

Sometimes, the shapes of the trees just resonate with me, and it's just using my intuition and imagination that propels me through the creative process.  I immerse myself in the little world of that place and time, and sometimes, I come away with some great images.  But it's not all about the image -- being in the woods -- in the moment -- with nature, is a refreshing connection with the earth.  I always felt some connection, and it's taken me years to appreciate just how essential that connection is to well-being and to creativity.

"To really feel a forest canopy one must use different senses, and often the most useful one is the sense of imagination." -- Joan Maloof 

Lately, I have been more captivated with trees and their shapes, and here in North Carolina, the trees in the mountains can exhibit some fantastic shapes.  I hope to get a portfolio together in the next year or two and see where that obsession goes.

"I often lay on that bench looking up into the tree, past the trunk and up into the branches. It was particularly fine at night with the stars above the tree." -- Georgia O'Keeffe

Here is a small selection of my images that showcase trees.  I hope that you enjoy them.