Sunday, January 30, 2022

What is Etude Pan 400?

As you can tell from many of my previous posts, I like to try out different films.  Last September, I received a package from Cameractive, an online store based in China. Aside from the two light meters inside, which I have already reviewed, were two packages of black and white 35mm film - Etude Pan 400.  Now this was something that I'd not heard of before, and with my searching online, I found  it's a brand sold mostly in China.  Still, what the heck is it?  A bit more sleuthing, and it's most likely repackaged Ilford Pan 400 - another film that I have not tried.  It turns out that Ilford only sells the Ilford Pan 400 - considered to be a "consumer" film, to markets in Asia and Europe, and  it's regarded as a film for photo classes, etc.  Given that there ARE  films that fit that criteria in the USA - such as the Arista brand, it seems a bit odd that Ilford does not market Ilford Pan 400 here in the US.  Is it the same as the Kentmere Pan 400 (aka Ultrafine Extreme 400)? 

Based upon the times for developing, it's definitely not Kentmere Pan 400!

Anyhow, I shot a roll of the Etude Pan 400 with my Nikon FM3a back in October during my trip to Arizona.  I developed it in Kodak's HC110B for 7 min.  Based on my results, I feel that it's certainly not the same film as Kentmere 400, as it has a lot more grain.  I'd rate the Ilford Pan/Etude Pan 400 as being somewhat similar to Fomapan 400.    

With so many  boutique films being sold these days, it's often difficult to attribute any given brand to the actual film stock.  I can say that the Etude Pan 400 is certainly a different emulsion than other Ilford/Kentmere brands that I have tried - perhaps a bit more like Kodak's Tri-X.  I have one more roll to shoot, and I'll try a different developer just to see if it still has as much grain.  Overall, I would certainly not hesitate to shoot with it, but as with any film, you may find that you like it better than some other emulsion -- or not!   Since you won't find it for sale in North America, your best best is to find it on eBay, where the seller will likely be from China.  

From Route 66, Adrian, TX.

From  the Valley of Fire, New Mexico

Saturday, January 29, 2022

The Winpro 35. The birth of the low-fi plastic 35mm camera.

I'm working away on my 35mm toy camera issue, and this camera profile is a bit of a teaser from what I am doing.  

I think the grandfather of modern 35mm plastic cameras was the Winpro 35, introduced in 1947 by Webster Industries, of Rochester, NY.  It incorporates a single element 40mm f/7 Crystar lens with Instant and Time shutter speeds, single aperture and simple viewfinder in a Tenite plastic body.  It sold for $10.95 in 1947.  Still, a reasonable sum at the time. Kodak introduced Tenite in 1929, and it is considered the first modern thermoplastic.  The camera was advertised to be nearly indestructible by its designers, and in fact, they showcased the camera after having dropped it from a tall building.  Later iterations of the Winpro 35  featured several apertures and a flash connector.  The whole idea of the Winpro 35 was an inexpensive and reliable 35mm camera that was priced below the offerings of Argus and Kodak in post-WWII America.  Webster Industries sold at least 150,000 Winpro 35 cameras between 1947-49 and sold their patents to another group that eventually renamed themselves as the Zenith Film Company.  Zenith offered a color slide film based on expired Kodachrome patents, which they called Dynacolor.  Unable to retain the quality control of the earlier Winpro 35s made by Webster,  Zenith reached its nadir by 1952, where remaining Winpros sold for less than $8 at closeouts in Rochester area photo stores. [Glass Brass & Chrome, 1972;  Webster Museum page]  

My Winpro 35 is a later model, sold by the Zenith Film Co.  I purchased it on eBay for about $30, which is an average price for the camera in today’s market.  As you can see, the wind and rewind, and exposure counter are all on the bottom.  The camera strap wires hold the clam-shell body together.  The tiny viewfinder is centered over the lens. There is no tripod socket.  The three numbered apertures are probably f/7, f/11, and f/16.  

I loaded the Winpro 35  with a roll of Ilford Pan-F, which at an ISO of 50, should be the ideal match for this camera.   I shot a few photos with it last September with a bunch of photographers from the Asheville area during a photo walk in Marshall, NC.  It sat on the shelf until recently, when I realized that I had not developed the roll.  Seeing there was still some film left, judging by the exposure counter, I shot a couple of images on the B setting in my study/studio. Using the camera was not difficult - the camera actually works quite well, and I appreciate its ingenious design.

I developed the Pan-F in D76, and scanned the negatives with my Epson V700 scanner. The results were not as good as what I would get from a modern single-use camera, but they actually look like they were taken quite a while ago.

indoors, not so bad.

For the outdoor shots, I think I would have done better with an ISO 100 film.  The indoor shot was on B, and might have been 2 sec  at most.  The lens is prone to flare, and perhaps there's dirt and haze inside.  Maybe the price wasn't low enough in 1947 for this camera for it sell well.  Maybe it should have been $1.99.  Image-wise, it leaves a lot to be desired if you expected it to compete with something like an Argus A. However, as a toy camera, it's got atmosphere in spades!  The simple design predates the plastic craptastic wonders of the 1980s-2000s, and it is a lot sturdier than the ABS plastic cameras of today.

For more information on the WinPro 35, check out the following sites:

And of course, the fantastic book - Glass, Brass, & Chrome by Lahue and Bailey, 1972, Oklahoma Univ. Press. ISBN-0-8061-3434-8 (reprinted in 2002).

Thursday, January 27, 2022

New Classic EZ400 film - One Roll Review

I'm always pleased to see the appearance of another boutique film.  New Classic is a new outlet for boutique films, and the EZ400 is their first film.  I ordered a couple of rolls from the Film Photography Project Store, and shot one roll a couple of days ago. I really love the cardboard packaging for the cassette, and it even has a QR code on the top that takes you to their web site so that you can get the developing information.  I think that's something every manufacturer should do.  The film comes in a 36-exposure roll, which I greatly appreciate.  I'm someone that goes through a lot of film in a year, and I prefer the longer rolls.  

The film cassette does not have a DX code, so it's not a good choice for one of those point and shoots that rely on the codes to detect the ISO.  However, since most of my cameras require me to set the ISO manually, it's not a problem.  

I took my Nikon F3HP and went to downtown Asheville with it on Jan. 25, and shot the entire roll within an hour.  I developed it the next day in HC110-B for 6.5 minutes per the instructions,  Overall, I am pleased with the results, The film has some grain, for sure, and to me, it resembles Fomapan 400, which it certainly could be.  I also note that when there are specular highlights, there is some "blooming" going on, which I'll point out below. 

I wouldn't say that this film is a favorite, compared to my standby, Kentmere 400 (Ultrafine Extreme 400),  Ilford HP-5+ or  Kodak Tmax 400, but it's okay, and at the price it sells for, it's a good alternative b&w film to put in your camera.  If you like the way it renders a scene, then it's perfect!  One thing I really appreciated was the absolute flatness if the film in the scanner holder.  

I love the packaging, and I hope that other film manufacturers will consider the cardboard cylinders.  

Here are some results (scanned with an Epson V700):

note the specular highlights on the trumpet!

Sunday, January 09, 2022

Minolta Hi-Matic G2 Review

The Minolta Hi-Matic G2 was the next-to-last of the Hi-Matic line, appearing in 1982.  It's a zone-focus camera that is fully automatic, and while it has the Hi-Matic name, it has a largely plastic body, and yet retains a classic appearance. It's similar in controls and appearance to the Hi-Matic G, which was released in 1974.

I don't mind fully automatic cameras, so long as I feel comfortable with them and have some idea about what settings the camera has chosen for me.  The Hi-Matic G2 has shutter speeds from 1/60 - 1/250 sec. (and I am not sure if its 2 shutter speeds or if there are others between 1/60 and 1/250), and the 38mm lens has apertures from f/2.8 to f/22. Like almost every other small camera of its type, the CdS light sensor resides just inside the front of the lens bezel, and turning the ring around the lens adjusts the ISO setting from 25-400. The zone focus has 4 icons, with the closest focus at 1 meter. It no longer says "Rokkor" lens on the front, just "Minolta Lens."  It accepts 46mm screw-on filters, and since the light meter sensor will be behind the filter, it will automatically compensate the exposure.  Next to the Auto setting on the lens, are a series of setting with guide numbers that are to be used with a flash.  The flash will sync at any shutter speed. Other than the focus scale, ISO setting, and guide number setting, there are no user-adjustable controls (see below).  This is truly an automatic exposure camera.  Although the camera does have a tripod mount, there is no B setting or way to attach a remote shutter release to the camera. It slips easily into a jacket pocket, though.

Power-wise, the camera originally called for a  Mercury PX-675 cell, but using a modern alkaline 1.5V equivalent does not seem to be a problem, as the exposures I had looked just fine.  

 In use, the camera is very compact and is really easy to shoot with.  I suppose one might call it a good snapshot or street camera, and they would be right.  You can make the Hi-Matic G2 an even more versatile camera if you wish to turn the Guide Number markings into something like a limited manual exposure.  By turning the camera from AUTO to the Guide numbers, the shutter speed stays at 1/60 sec, and the guide numbers set the aperture at f/2.8 (GN10), f/4 (GN14) f/5.6 (GN20), f/8 (GN28), and f/11 (GN40). Without a battery, the default shutter speed is 1/60 sec, so you could make it work pretty well with no battery and ISO 50-100 film, and adjust the aperture by the guide numbers.

Since there is no on/off switch, keep the lens cap on when storing the camera so that 1.5v cell doesn't discharge.  

Overall, I was happy with the images that I got from the Hi-Matic G2.  It's one of those cameras that has an appeal to people that value well-designed, easy-to-use cameras that can be ready to shoot with in an instant.  The only drawback for me, is the relative lack of control over the exposure settings, but the camera did okay with the conditions that I used it in.


The color shots are from a roll of Fujifilm Superia 200, shot in 2021, and the b&w shots are from Fomapan 100, which I shot in January 2022.

Waynesville, NC

Waynesville, NC

camera geekery

Long's Chapel, Weaverville, NC

fence and barn, Buncombe Co., NC

Great place to eat, Biltmore Village

All Souls Cathedral, Biltmore Village

All Souls Cathedral, Biltmore Village

Angle Street, Biltmore Village

Sale, Biltmore Village

It's certainly an easy to carry-around zone-focus camera that might be just the thing for many photographers that want something better than a Harman 35 simple-use camera.

Friday, January 07, 2022

The Cooldark V102 Light Meter - The tiniest of them all?

Back in September of 2021, I received a package from Cameractive, an online store based in China.  In it, were two light meters for me to test and review.  The first one, the Doomo-D was reviewed several months ago here on RCB.  The second meter, a much smaller unit, the Cooldark V102 light meter, took me some time to get around to testing it. 

Cooldark V102 light meter mounted in the hot-shoe

If you do any searching for shoe-mount light meters, you’ll come up with quite a few new meters that have only recently been available.  I have already reviewed the DOOMO-D which features analog dials to get a reading, much like the Voigtlander VC II.  A different class of light meters, which seems to have originated with the Raveni Labs light meter, utilize a small OLED screen with the controls being several buttons on the top, with a front-facing sensor.  When I say tiny,  they are barely larger than the flash shoe they mount to.  A good review of a series of  shoe-mount light meters is on 35mmc

My primary concern over the Raveni Labs meter was the fiddly nature of the controls, and of course, their size, and the price.  It’s bad enough that I have a problem with texting.   Second, was my fear that the display would be hard to read in full sun. So, I put off buying one when they first appeared.  When the Cooldark 102 meter arrived to review, I was soon away for a long trip to the Southwest, and didn't test it right away. Finally, in Nov./Dec. 2021 I had the time to test the meter and give it a whirl.

The Cooldark V102 Light Meter

I wasn’t familiar with the name, but I was intrigued by the small size.  It’s barely over an inch wide, and what’s immediately apparent is a small USB port on the left side.  This meter has a rechargeable battery that is charged via the USB-C port.  Great idea!  The manufacturer claims 20 hrs of continuous use on one charge.  Since I only need it on for a few seconds at a time, that’s going to work fine for me.

There is no instruction manual with the meter, but if you point your smartphone at the QR code on the package, it takes you to an online manual, which I printed out.  The page at Cameractive also has a diagram that shows the controls – which are pretty easy to figure out.  


    • Metering Angle: 30 degrees

    • Aperture Range: F1-F64

    • ISO: 6-6400

    • Shutter Speed: 8s -1/2000s

    • Dimension: 27mm x 30mm x 13mm

    • Battery Capacity:120mAh

    • Battery Life: 20hrs non-stop

    • Weight: 12 grams

Of course, it weighs next to nothing!  After I charged it up – I pressed the metering button (lower L) and the display sprang to life.  Setting the ISO, mode, etc., are accomplished by pressing the upper L button and the right side buttons adjust the settings.  Pretty simple.  The small metal buttons are easy to operate for me.  The meter has aperture and shutter priority modes, which is really all you need.  When it’s in Aperture Priority, the arrow is on the aperture setting, and if in Shutter Priority, the arrow is on the selected shutter speed.  It’s reflective metering, which is pretty much what we do most of the time.  This tiny meter also is priced right - $45, not including shipping.  

I mounted the meter on my Ricoh 35 ZF, and was very pleased with the display being easy to read in most conditions – in really bright sun, I needed to shade the screen to read it.  The readings were consistent with my iPhone metering app, as well as with my Nikon FE2 that I was using.  I was originally concerned about the placement of the screen on the top and not the rear, but in use, it was perfectly fine.

For a small camera, the Cooldark 102 meter is really perfect, as it doesn’t get in the way of anything. The only downside to such a small meter is that it could easily be lost – but as long as I keep it on a hot shoe, it’s not going to fall off.  I think it's a great choice to mount on a camera such as an Argus C3 or C4, Kodak Retina, and all those old fully manual cameras that have either a cold-shoe or hot-shoe and either a non-working meter or no meter at all.  At the current price, you may want to buy a couple of them.  Thanks to Zhang at Cameractive for sending this delightful little meter!