Monday, March 22, 2021

What's with the Kodak M35?

If you have been trawling ebay for a bit, you might have come across a bunch of colorful, reusable 35mm cameras under the name Kodak M35.  Now, I know they are cheap little plastic cameras, but why aren't they available in the USA?  There are plenty of eBay sellers - all from China, Taiwan, or Korea, with prices ranging from nearly $30 to quite a bit more, as if these were some sort of collectible.  I searched US sellers, and although B&H have them listed for sale, there are no photos of the product, and their site says expected delivery in 7-14 days, but at $25.00 each.

Now, with the Dubble Film Show and the Harman 35, I certainly don't really need another camera in that same class, but I would like to test one out, as I am prepping for a 35mm toy camera issue of Monochrome Mania.  The Kodak M35 looks very similar to the Dubble Film and Harman products, and yeah, there's only so many ways one can manufacture a cheap plastic camera that is barely a step-up from a one-time use camera.  

What surprises me most is that these camera have Kodak branding, yet not a peep from Kodak in the US about selling/marketing them.  They are colorful, and sure to attract young buyers, so I have to wonder why there has  not been anything about them from Kodak or Kodak/Alaris. Are they testing the waters elsewhere before they sell in the US?  I don't expect anything better than what I have gotten from the Dubble Show or Harman 35, but at $25, they would be an attractive alternative, and priced right. Of course they are probably worth $10, but that's where we are these days with new film cameras, no matter how low-tech they may be.



Some digging in the Web led me to Sino Promise Group in Hong Kong, which proclaims itself as the largest distributor of Kodak/Alaris products in the world, and THAT's where I found the Kodak information about the M35 and the M38 cameras. Here's the key bit of information at the bottom of the page about the M35: "Sino Promise Group LTD. manufactures and sells the above film cameras. The Kodak trademark, logo and trade dress are used under license by Sino Promise Group LTD. Products are not available in all countries."  Indeed, they appear to be marketed in China, Philippines, Thailand, etc. 

Specs are pretty much the same as the Dubble Film and Harman 35 cameras

So, there you have it.  Sino Promise Group makes these under license from Kodak, and markets them, not Kodak.  Maybe we will eventually see them sold here in a variety of stores, but they were introduced in 2020, and the M38 model looks a lot more like the Dubble/Harman cameras.  I bet they are all made in the same factory - perhaps Great Wall?   Keep your eyes open for them to appear somewhere in the US at a retailer... or a flea market.


UPDATE - JULY 27, 2021.

I was at the Film Photography Project HQ last week, and Mike Raso has one of theses cameras. I was able to inspect it, and it's EXACTLY the same camera as the Harman Reusable Camera.  The only thing that's different is the color of the front part of the camera, and the branding.  Given that the Harman camera comes with 2 rolls of Kentmere 400, it's a better deal




Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Exploring ECN-2 Films

Over the past decade, as color film (C-41 and E-6) choices became more limited, I have seen a lot more attention paid to those cinema film emulsions offered by Kodak and Fujifilm. Yes, we still-film shooters have been putting cine-film in our cameras for quite a while. If you have used Kodak Double-X or Eastman 5222 film, it's a b&w ISO 200 negative film made for cinema.  At one time, the only way to get small quantities of it was to buy the unused "film ends" from an outfit in New York. Small quantities typically were about 70-200 ft, and the price was pretty cheap. As more people started using it, it became popular enough for resellers (such as the FPP, Cinestill, and Ultrafine) to buy the big reels of fresh 5222 and re-spool into 35mm cassettes and market them. I still don't understand why Kodak has not offered the 5222 as a still film. It's an excellent b&w emulsion with great latitude and is very pushable. There are other b&w emulsions that are made for cine use, but that's another story. 

Note that the C-41 still film has rectangular sprockets, while 
cine-films have rounded sprocket ends. The same holds true for
B&W cine-films vs. still camera films.

However, cinema color films are what this post is about. The use of color cine film in 35mm cameras goes back into the late 1970s, when Seattle Film Works sold their cheap color negative film that “only they could process.” Touted as the SWF-XL process, it was actually ECN-2, which uses slightly different chemicals than C-41, and also involved the removal of the black remjet layer (more about this later). The film was surplus cine film stock, and could have been made by several companies, as we were not told anything other than it was Seattle Film Works film, ISO 400 or 200. Due to the remjet coating, ordinary photo labs would not accept the film, because it would contaminate their chemistry. I'll link here to the Wikipedia article on SFW, and you can read more about their business and its demise.  I did use SFW in the mid-90s for a while, and they offered both prints and slides from the same roll of film. The slides were not very good, as they were copied from the negatives, and faded after about 10 years.  Lesson learned.  However, properly exposed fresh SFW film produced excellent negatives.  Don't judge a film from 30-year rolls that sat who knows where. The FPP has a podcast episode that discusses the SFW film.


A bunch of expired SFW films. Image by Michael Raso, 2021

So, you found some old rolls of the Seattle Film Works in a box? Who knows how they have been stored for the past 30+ years?  I'd say use the film for testing if a camera is advancing the film properly. Yes, you could develop them in the home-brew ECN-2, but why waste your time?  If you do decide to shoot them, rate at ISO 50 and maybe you'll get something.  With any long-expired color film, you will get color shifts and loss of sensitivity. Be aware that by the mid-1990s, Seattle Film Works switched to regular C-41 films (and still with the SFW-XL process on the label), and if they have Photoworks labeling, then they are definitely C-41, and not ECN-2. So, at minimum, the film will be 20 years old. You can probably get a good idea of what type of film you find in those SFW cassettes merely by looking at the sprockets.  ECN-2 films are cine-films and their sprocket holes are rounded, whereas C-41 films have rectangular sprocket holes. Also, if the cassettes are labeled as manufactured in Germany, they are most likely Agfa C-41 films.

NEW INFO!  - (04/21/21) I just found a packet of information dated 1987 from SFW that lists the films.  They are as follows - 

  • SFW 6231 - 100 ASA - European (Agfa?)
  • SFW 6251 - 200 ASA - European (Agfa?)
  • SFW 5247 - 200 ASA - Eastman Kodak Motion Picture Film
  • SFW 6271 - 400 ASA - European (Agfa?)
  • SFW 5294 - 640 ASA - Eastman Kodak Motion Picture Film

What's the big deal about color cine films?

Kodak is the only producer of color cine-films, and many movies in the past several decades have been made on their Vision3 (https://www.kodak.com/en/motion/products/camera-films) series of films.  The big deal is that these films have good latitude, excellent color rendering, are optimized for particular types of lighting, and are available in ISO ratings of 50-500. Fujifilm produced its Eterna line of cine- films, which are now discontinued, like so much of Fujifilms' analog business. 


The big problem with any of these cine ECN-2 films is that all have a remjet layer on the base side of the film. The remjet coating protects the film against light-piping, halation, and static buildup on the film as it moves through the cine camera. Kodachrome also had a remjet layer, and it was both a cine and a still film. The remjet is mostly carbon, and if you process the film without removing it, you'll have an awful mess in your chemistry and the film won't look so great, either.  Commercial cine film labs have machines with 30 PSI water nozzles and roller-like scrubbers that remove the remjet before it gets run through the developing process, and there are also chemicals involved that introduce a mild base that dissolves the bonding agents in the remjet, making its removal easier.  

So, while there are some fantastic color cine-films that could be shot with still cameras, you can't just reload them into a 35mm film cassette and then take them to a C-41 lab.  If you relabel the film as C-41 and it gets processed, you will be persona non grata forever for ruining their chemistry and contaminating their processor with carbon residue.  DON'T DO THAT!  You can develop the film at home, or send to a lab (listed below) that will handle ECN-2 films.


MAIL-ORDER LABS THAT WILL ACCEPT ECN-2 FILM:


IMPORTANT

The removal of the remjet is actually fairly simple, and doing this method as a "pre-wash" before any developing will remove 99.9% of the remjet, with the remaining easily removed physically when you hang up the film to dry. Here's the procedure:

Dissolve 1 heaping tablespoon of Sodium bicarbonate in 500ml of water at 100°F (38°C).  Pour into the developing tank with the film inside. Start shaking the tank vigorously (like a cocktail shaker), and be prepared to "burp" the gas escaping every few seconds. Do this for about 30 seconds, and pour out the foamy black water. Refill the tank with water at the same temperature, and shake vigorously again for 30 sec.  Pour and repeat until the water that drains out is clear.  There may also be a tint in the wash water from the dyes in the film – it may be green, pinkish, yellow, or purple. Now, you can proceed with the developing process, either C-41 or ECN-2.  Many people have developed the color cine-film in C-41 with satisfactory results, and processed C-41 films in ECN-2 with good results. However, I think that because the color-cine film was designed for ECN-2 processing, that's the better option, if you can do it.

ECN-2 kits have only recently become commercially  available for hobbyist development.  Previously, one had to sequester the chemicals necessary for the process and mix them.  Here are the ingredients that you will need if you wish to mix them yourself:


ECN-2 Developer - to make 1 liter

  • Sodium Carbonate - 25.6 grams
  • Sodium Bicarbonate - 2.8 grams
  • Sodium Sulfite - 2 grams
  • Potassium Bromide - 1.4 grams
  • CD3 Color Developer - 4 grams


ECN-2 Bleach - to make 1 liter

  • Potassium Ferricyanide - 40 grams
  • Potassium Bromide - 29 grams

Dissolve the mixtures for each in 800 ml of 110°F water and then add water to make 1 liter.  Label  the containers very distinctly, as you don't want to bleach your film before developing it!

The ECN-2 development process is as follows:

AFTER the Sodium bicarbonate pre-wash, 

1. ECN-2 Developer for 3 min at 106°F 

2. Stop using an acid stop bath or a water stop, for 1 minute (100°F)

3. Wash using the Ilford method (which is pouring water into the tank and shaking for 30 seconds) (100°F)

4. ECN-2 Bleach for 3 min at about 100°F

5. Wash again, Ilford method (around 100°F)

6. Fix using any fixer** for 5 min  (100°F)-(I keep a separate 1 liter of fixer just for this process, as I don't want to contaminate the fixer that I use for other films)

7. Wash (Ilford method) 4 times (80°-100°F)

Note that you should agitate the develop, bleach, and fix steps every 30 seconds for best results.

8. Remove the film and hang to dry - I wipe down the back of the film with a Photowipe until there is no longer any carbon residue - usually 3 passes with the wipe.  DO NOT wipe the emulsion side.


**To make 1 liter of non-hardening fixer, you’ll need the following:

  • 800 ml of water at 125°F
  • 240 grams Sodium Thiosulfate
  • 30 grams Sodium Sulfite 
  • Mix, and add water to make 1 liter.

Using this method has produced excellent scans from the ECN-2 films that I have developed.  

There is some disagreement among hobbyist practitioners about the use of the sodium bicarbonate pre-wash.  I have tried not using it, and using just water alone will not remove as much carbon, and I ended up with more remjet on the film to remove physically after development, and more crap in the developing chemicals (which were C-41). It makes sense to remove as much of the remjet as possible BEFORE development to reduce the contamination of your developing chemicals. The kit from Ultrafine includes a reusable alkaline pre-bath.


SOURCES for ECN-2 Developing Kits:


Color (ECN-2) Cine Films 

I admit to not having tried all of the color cine-films that are available.  While you can find the Fujifilm examples for sale on ebay, be aware that these are discontinued films, and are not going to be fresh. It doesn't mean that you shouldn't try them, but be aware of the age factor.  In addition, many of these 35mm films may be available in 16mm, should you want to load your own 16mm still cameras, such as the Minolta 16. 


FUJIFILM 

  1. F64D - A low-speed daylight balanced film with fine grain, high sharpness and saturated colors. 
  2. ETERNA 500- This appears to be a high speed film suitable for Tungsten lighting.
  3. ETERNA 250D - A fine-grained daylight-balanced film with lovely, rich colors.
  4. REALA 500D - Contains Fujifilm's "4th color layer" 

There are other cine-films that were manufactured by Fujifilm, but since all are discontinued, I'll just refer you to to this chart.


KODAK

All of the Vision3 films listed are in current production.


VISION3 50D - The finest-grained color film by Kodak. While the 50D is a slow-speed film, it's great for most outdoors shooting, and of course, with a tripod, there's no problem for longer exposures.  I like the colors and the highlight detail, as well as the contrast. 

VISION3 250D - I love the look of this film.  It has such lovely color rendition and reminds me of Kodachrome.  It's fine-grained, and it's nothing like the old 35mm C-41 standby, Gold 200.  If Kodak could produce this film for still photographers (i.e., without remjet), it would be really popular.  I have only processed it with ECN-2, so I don't know how different the colors would be in C-41. 

VISION3 200T - I have not used this film. It's for Tungsten lighting, so indoors would be ideal, especially with incandescent bulbs.  However, if you are using color-temperature adjustable LED light panels, you should set them to 3200K to mimic the Tungsten lighting, which also applies to the 500T below. 

VISION3 500T -This is an excellent high-speed film that has good shadow detail, fine-grained, and looks great under Tungsten lighting.  Of course, you can use it in daylight with a No. 85 filter, or just shoot it and color correct the scans.  This is the same film that Cinestill sells as 800T. There is no native 800 ISO cine film.  In essence, Cinestill is telling you to push the film 2/3 of a stop, which is not a lot.  However, pushing the film higher may not result in the best results. I think that some people coming from digital to film see the higher speed ratings much as they see changing the ISO on a digital camera. However, if a film's native ISO is X, then the most reliable results as found by the manufacturer is at X, not X + 500.  So, proceed at your own risk, and be aware that your results may vary.

other ECN-2 Kodak films

Eastman Kodak EXR 5244 is a color intermediate film sold by Ultrafine Online.  They list the ISO as 1.  The film was introduced in the 1990s, and is discontinued.  It’s reported to have saturated colors, and I have a roll that I have yet to shoot. With such a low ISO, it’s certainly going to be tripod city, and in lots of light.  The 1999 literature from Kodak states:

“EASTMAN EXR Color Intermediate Film 2244 (35 mm and 65 mm ESTAR), 5244 (35 mm and 65 mm acetate), and 7244 (16 mm acetate) is intended for making color master positives from EASTMAN Color Negative Camera Films, and for making color duplicate negatives from those master positives. You can also use EASTMAN EXR Color Intermediate Film for preparing color duplicate negatives from black-and-white silver separation positives. It contains an integral mask similar to the mask in Eastman color negative films but is more red in color. It has excellent image structure, tonal scale, and reproduction contrast near unity when recommended printing and processing procedures are followed. It features micro-fine grain, high sharpness and high resolving power.”

Certainly an interesting film to try out! You will find other expired ECN-2 EXR and Vision2 films if you trawl eBay and Etsy.  

My Experience with ECN-2

Shooting with these films certainly gives me more emulsions to try out, and I have not been disappointed in my results, whether they were processed in C-41 or ECN-2 chemistry.  I recently tried a roll of the Fujifilm F64D that I rated at ISO 50.  The results were fantastic, as the examples will show.  It's very fine-grained, and the colors pop.  I also acquired some rolls of the Fujifilm ETERNA 250D,  and it too, has wonderful color. The remjet of the Eterna 250D comes off much quicker than the Kodak films, and I do not suggest putting a normal C-41 film together into the same developing tank if you are developing  multiple rolls in one tank.  My result ended up with lots of carbon on the C-41 emulsion, making it look like a snowstorm on the scans. I want to reiterate that the Fujifilm cine stocks are now only available via eBay and Etsy sellers, and are not in current production.

The Kodak Vision3 films are beautiful, with excellent colors, and it's a shame that Kodak doesn't make them available as still films.  You can buy any of them from the Film Photography Project Store in 24 exposure rolls and 100 ft spools..  Cinestill sells the 50D and 800T (really 500T) Vision3 films in 36 exposure rolls, but the remjet has been removed, so they can be processed by any lab.  That alone makes them quite desirable for those wanting to use a local film lab. The two Cinestill-branded films are also available in 120, which is a nice option. Ultrafine Online also sells fresh Vision3 films and some of the expired ECN-2 films, including 100 ft rolls. So long as you home-process the films or send to a lab that will take ECN-2 films, these color cine film stocks offer more avenues to explore. 

My ECN-2 developing kits came from three sources – a home-brew kit from August Kelm five years ago, and my recent kits are from Conspiracy of Cartographers on Etsy, and a kit from Ultrafine.  The kits are based on the Kodak formulas. Some of my ECN-2 film was developed in the FPP C-41 1-liter kit, and I will indicate the developing chemistry in the image descriptions.  I also recommend that you use the Kodak-based ECN-2 kits  soon after mixing, as they may not have the shelf-life of mixed C-41 chemistry. My experience is that after a month, the films that go through the process are underdeveloped with “thin negatives”.  However, they did scan in pretty well with adjustments in the scans. The ECN-2 kits should yield 10 - 12 rolls per liter of chemistry, if used within 1 month.  It’s definitely cheaper than sending your film out to a lab!  


Vision3 50D Examples

Marquette, 2016, Nikon FG, dev. in C-41

Ann Arbor, 2016, Nikon FG, dev. in C-41

Ann Arbor, 2016, Nikon FG, dev. in C-41

Ann Arbor, 2019, Yashica FX-7, dev. in ECN-2

Asheville, 2020, Nikon N80, dev. in ECN-2

Ann Arbor, 2019, Yashica FX-7, dev. in ECN-2



Vision3 250D


Chimney Rock, 2021, Canon 7, dev. in ECN-2

Asheville, 2021, Canon 7, dev. in ECN-2

Asheville, 2021, Canon 7, dev. in ECN-2

Pittsburgh, 2018, Nikon FM, ECN-2 dev.

Pittsburgh, 2018, Nikon FM, ECN-2 dev.

Weaverville, 2021, Nikkormat FT2, ECN-2 dev.


Vision3 500T

Mansfield, OH, 2017, Pentax K1000, ECN-2 dev.

New Jersey, 2019 Canon T-60, ECN-2 dev.

Ann Arbor, 2017, Pentax K1000, ECN-2

Toledo Zoo, 2017, Pentax K1000, ECN-2


Fujifilm F64D

Asheville, 2019, Ricoh XR-M, ECN-2 dev.

Asheville, 2019, Ricoh XR-M, ECN-2 dev.


Fujifilm Eterna 250D

Dillsboro, NC, 2021, Spotmatic F, ECN-2 dev.

Biltmore, 2021, Spotmatic F, ECN-2 dev.

Burnsville, NC, 2021, Spotmatic F, ECN-2 dev.

Burnsville, NC, 2021, Spotmatic F, ECN-2 dev.

The minuses of working with ECN-2 films

First and foremost is the remjet issue.  You need to completely remove all traces from the back of the film, otherwise, you'll see white areas or spots on your scans.  You may only notice the residue after scanning.  I find it easy to lay the strip of film emulsion side down on the LED light pad and then use a dry microfiber cloth or Photowipe to remove the remaining carbon residue on the base of the film.  It's easy to fix a few spots with a healing or cloning tool in your editing software, but large areas will show up as white blotches unless you have done a thorough job of remjet removal. Here is a good example of a bad job of remjet removal:





Second is not contaminating your chemistry.  Let's say that you want to develop some C-41 films in the ECN-2 chemistry.  You really want to reduce the number of free carbon particles in your chemistry, so an alkaline pre-bath of your ECN-2 films will drastically reduce the amount of gunk that ends up in your chemistry.  So, yeah, remjet is still the thing.  If you only use the chemistry for ECN-2 or only C-41 films, it will probably be less of a problem. I developed a roll of the Eterna 250D  and a roll of Kodak Color Plus 200 (C-41 film) together in aged ECN-2 chemistry.  Not only were the negatives thin, but the Kodak 200 had picked up carbon from the Fujifilm 250D remjet. It looks like a snowstorm on the scan - and almost like an effect you would pay extra for.

look at all the white spots.  Kodak Color Plus 200.


However, despite these little problems, I remain enthused about the ECN-2 films. The colors are glorious, and the fine-grained emulsions have no peer in C-41 films. Definitely give them a try.  The FPP Store and Ultrafine Online are the best places to get your hands on these films as well as the developing kits.





 






Thursday, March 11, 2021

Monochrome Mania #4 Available!

 


While Spring is making itself quite apparent here in North Carolina, the latest issue of Monochrome Mania is fresh from the printers, and it's about...Winter.  Yes, you read that right. The title is A Cold Reckoning - The Nature of Winter.  This issue explores the abstract images found in ice, winter weather, and the forms that result from repeated freezing and thawing, along with some tips about cold weather photography.  The origins for this issue go back a decade, when I had a photo exhibit at Matthaei Botanical gardens in Ann Arbor, MI. It was titled "Phase Change" and the images were of various facets of the phases of water from liquid to solid and back again along Fleming Creek and the Huron River.  Many of those images appear in the zine, along with others taken after that show.  This issue departs from what I had previously done in the sense that I don't tell you about the cameras and films that I used, because I want the reader to enjoy the images for what they are.  Included are some quotes and poetry as well as information at the end about photographing in cold weather.  My friend Susan Patrice suggested some better fonts, and they have made a difference in the presentation.  Everyone that's seen the pre-press copy has really liked this issue, and I hope that you'll be tempted to purchase it and enjoy it, too.

Monochrome Mania # 4 is once again  36 pages plus covers, and priced at $12 within the USA.  For readers in Canada, It's $15, and overseas, $18. All prices include shipping. 

You can purchase it at this link: https://bityl.co/5uis






You can also link to the store via this QR code:





Friday, March 05, 2021

One Roll Review - Adox HR-50

I purchased a bunch of  "new to me" film stocks last year, and I am slowly shooting these low-iso films.  I aim to update the first Monochrome Mania with an additional review of films that are currently available, after I have tested them all. These one-roll reviews are sort of a preliminary report of what I hope to be more thorough testing.


Adox HR-50 is certainly a film that should be of interest to black and white enthusiasts.  According to the Adox literature, the film is "based on an emulsion commonly available for technical purposes, featuring an ultrafine grain and superpanchromatical sensitization."  I like that term "superpanchromatical"  I am going to have to use it sometimes and say, "Wow! Superpanchromatical, Dude!"

HR-50 Spectral Response


In addition,  Adox  states "ADOX HR-50 is especially suitable for street and landscape photography. In Portrait photography we recomend our dedicated HR-50 developer.ADOX modifies this film from the master roll and finishes it to 35mm, 120 and sheets (4×5). The film´s speed is enhanced to 50 ASA using ADOX´s new SPEED BOOST- technology. The gamma is reduced so it becomes perfectly usable for pictorial photography in regular developers. ADOX HR-50 can be used as an Infrared film and responds extremely well to any sort of filtration (yellow, orange, red, blue, green)."


Fact sheet - https://www.fotoimpex.com/shop/images/products/media/63360_5_PDF-Datasheet.pdf

Film facts:

  • Emulsion: Superpanchromatical
  • Resolution: Up to 280 lp/mm at an image contrast of 1000:1
  • ISO: 50/17°
  • Base: 0.1mm PET
  • Anti Halation: Combined AHU with NC/AH on backside* ( AHU=Anti-Halation Underlayer, NC=No Curling, AH=Anti-Halation)

I purchased two rolls of the HR-50 and a bottle of its special developer from B&H. Usually, I try to stick to developers that I commonly use, but in this instance, it seems that the HR Developer gives the best results. In developing a roll of the HR-50 in a single reel tank, I needed only 6 ml of developer and 294 of water.  

I shot the first roll in November of 2020 and Feb. 2021 in my Pentax Spotmatic F. No filters were used. I plan on using roll 2 during the summer with a 25A red filter to see what I get with green vegetation on a sunny day.

This film reminds me a great deal of Kodak's Technical Pan Film. The clear PET base makes scanning really easy, and the spectral response is similar to TechPan, which is sensitive into the near-IR end of the spectrum. The HR developer reminds me a bit of the Kodak Technidol liquid, but I have no idea what the HR-formula contains. I sense that the HR-50 film would be a high-contrast film if developed with anything other than the HR Developer, much like Tech Pan.  

This film is really sharp and virtually grainless, and I found that in shaded conditions, there is a really smooth tonality.  In stark sunlit conditions, the highlights appear somewhat overexposed, and shadows dark. That could be due to my processing or my metering, but I do like the look of this film. Midtones, do look pretty good, though.  

I think that if you are looking for a pictorial replacement for Tech Pan, the Adox HR-50 should be a great candidate.  The preliminary results from it certainly encourage me to do more testing. It's a faster film than Tech Pan, for sure.  I may also try developing some in POTA, just to see how it compares, and likewise, I will try developing some Tech Pan (I still have a lot of it) in the HR Developer and see what I get from that.

As of this writing (3-5-2021),  it appears that HR-50 is no longer offered through US retailers, though I see it for sale in the EU. Drat!  Now I wish that I had bought more of this nice film.

Some Examples:


From the Blue Ridge Parkway, November 2020

dying elephant-ear leaves

These are all from a visit to Dillsboro, NC in late February, 2021.

Dillsboro, NC RR crossing. 

Restful place on the other side of the tracks

We sell masks

All others pay cash

mirror view

Rails, roads, and mountains




Tuesday, March 02, 2021

Spotmatic II - SP II Joy

 Out and About With A Spotmatic II


The SP II


I have always loved Pentax Spotmatic SLRs.  I was able to borrow one in college (late 1970s) which I used on a research trip to the SW in 1980, and before that, used it with extension tubes to shoot macro of the wasps that I was working with for my thesis.  My own SLR at the time was an Exakta Exa 1a which lacked so many features that the Spotmatic had.  By the time I was working and needed to buy a new SLR, I bought a Pentax MG, which is pretty much the same camera as the Pentax ME.  Had I thought about it, I should have purchased a used Spotmatic F or Spotmatic II, which although they were M-42 mount bodies, were superior to the MG in build and had match-needle metering.



This Spotmatic II (SP II) came to me recently to sell, and it is in wonderful condition.  So good, I should have bought it for myself, but I already have the better camera in the Spotmatic F.  The Spotmatic F features open-aperture metering with SMC-Takumar lenses, whereas the SP II still uses stop-down metering.  Not really a big deal, but I do like the open-aperture metering.  I decided to test the camera out and shot a roll of the FPP 200 BW film - now known as FPP LOVE BW.  


First of all, the SP II was produced from 1971-1977, and based on the serial number of this one (5407261), it was probably made between 1971-73.  So, it's about 50 years old.It is in excellent condition. I have seen very few Spotmatics that look as minty as this one, which is probably because it was kept in a never-ready case. The SP II is as elegant and as simple in operation as metal-bodied SLR can get Everything about it seems precise and ergonomically correct. The shutter is fairly quiet, and advancing the film is easily done.  The camera came with the typical 55mm f/1.8 Super Multi-Coated Takumar (SMC Tak), which is a great lens, and one of the best in the M-42 mount.

A thing of beauty

I took the camera around the River Arts District in Asheville, and also on a short trip into Pisgah national Forest near Barnardsville, NC. I also had my Spotmatic F along loaded with color film.  

I processed the FPP 200 in D-96 for 8 minutes.  The results were pretty much as I expected. The meter works well, and for a 50-year old SLR, it works as good as it did on the sday it was made. Not too big of a surprise, really, but the camera confirmed why I like Spotmatics.  They are great to work with, and while some people don't like the screw-mount lens system, I don't feel it ever hindered me.

Of course, there are other places on the web with far more information on Spotmatics than I am going to give here, Casual Photophile's blog is a good place to start, and the Camera Wiki has more information.  I just don't understand how the Pentax K1000 gets all the attention, while the more refined Spotmatic F is a far better body. Pricewise, you can pick up the SP II for less than $50, and M-42 lenses are similarly inexpensive.  


A few images: