Film talk – the arrival of Silberra Pan 200

I was sitting on this one for a while but now I finally started to write the post about my first experience with Silberra Pan 200. First of all, kudos to the guys at Silberra for having the chutzpah to bring new films to a market that seems to have a comeback but that will never rebounce to where it once was. Kudos for the bravery to take on mission impossible. Film is dead. Long live film. 

I got two rolls of the 200 speed film as part of Silberra’s indiegogo campaign and soon after the arrival I took the first roll out for a stroll with my Horizon, a Russian panoramic camera. Unfortunately, the day was pretty dull and the light wasn’t really great. I guess it’s not nice to blame the bad light on the film but I could have used a poor man’s zone system for the entire roll. It also turned out that the camera showed some pretty annoying light leaks again. 

To get it out of the way, here some film facts: grain is pleasant when developed in Rodinal, therefore sharpness is also good for a 35mm film, shadow detail is good, contrast is high, there is always a range of values missing at the bright end of the histogram (but that might be attributed to the bad light and Rodinal). I don’t think Rodinal the way I used it (1+20, 20C, 8min) does the film good. The images come out a bit dullish. The dark values    are dense pulling the images down and as said before there is a range of bright values missing. Maybe a semi stand development would work better. I think it’s still too much effort to order der Silberra chemicals with the film.

Now I’m waiting for the two rolls of 120 orthochromatic films to arrive. Also, I wouldn’t mind to test other 120 slow speed films by Silberra. I don’t think i will get more of their 35mm stock anytime soon. I’m more of a medium format shooter and when I shoot 35mm, I’m kind off hooked to two or three film favorites. Silberra’s Pan200 doesn’t make it to this list since I prefer films that I can use in a wider ISO range (Delta400) or have some “special” character (Rollei Retro 400s). Sometime significantly cheaper (Foma400) can also play a decisive role. 

Please send the medium format rolls as soon as you’re ready and get more stock on your webpage. I’m very keen to try your films in 120 format. I promise I shoot the second roll on a sunny day and try the sem stand.

until then, enjoy …

 

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It’s working. Finally. The Pentacon Six TL

Most of my camera purchases are emotional. I don’t sit down and compare features, draw a chart and make a decision based on technical facts. I listen to the resonance a camera leaves behind. I guess that’s the reason I buy and sell quite frequently since I give a new camera a shot but get rid of it again when we’re not becoming good buddies.

The Pentacon Six TL is one of these cameras I always wanted to have since I believe it’s the best looking 6×6 camera. Growing up in East Germany where the camera was made, i had no chance to get my hands on one. The cameras were almost exclusively made for export or for professional photographers. After the reunification I forget about the camera and focused on Japanese made SLRs with all bells and whistles. After my digital era, my analog work horse became a Hasselblad 500c/m but I started to look into finding a Pentacon Six TL.

The first one I got on eBay was cheap, didn’t look that good and fell apart when I unwrapped it. I was pretty frustrated and sold it as defect again. After that I kept looking on eBay but was concerned buying from a private seller and a bit scared by the high prices of the stores. Finally, I found one that was  in great shape cosmetically and seemed to work as well. Only the film counter seemed broken. 

I took the camera on a weekend trip, shot a couple of rolls only to find out that the filmtransport wasn’t working and that most of the shutter speeds were off as well. While the speeds were easily fixed by cleaning the mechanics, the transport is apparently not easy to fix. It took the repair guy about a year to heal the camera. I went by a couple of times and he continued telling me that he hates dealing with Six TLs. 

Since the camera is ready I’ve shot a couple of roles. Honestly, I love the camera even though it’s far from perfect. The waist level finder is bright and allows easy focusing. The ergonomics of shutter and film winder is quite good. It rather feels like a heavy 35mm than a MF camera. I’m not gonna go into much more technical detail describing the few knobs and wheels. It’s worth to mention that inserting the film always makes me nervous. If the counter is working, the camera is ready when it points to the “1”. Otherwise, advance and release three times to be on the first frame. The camera also allows you to shoot a thirteens frame but where to put this extra frame if the film sleeve only holds twelve 6×6 images. The biometar 80/2.8 is a good lens. It’s sharp and quite high contrast. Light falls of towards the edge giving the images quite a vintage look. I haven’t done a lot of crazy testing yet but I like what I see even shooting with wide open aperture. I recently also acquired a Flektogon 50mm/4 and looking forward taking it out together with the Six TL.

Here a little update after I got a response on twitter: I’ve decided to love the camera as long as it works. She’s an old lady on her last mile and we will enjoy this time.

The images are taken on Ilford Delta 400 pushed to ISO 800 and developed in Spürsinn HCDnew.

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The last roll – I sold the Mamiya 645Pro

My first post in 2017 shows some old pictures I took on a trip to India in 2015. I also showed some of the images here before. These here are the last images taken with a Mamiya 645Pro that I sold a couple of weeks ago on eBay. Next to the 80mm standard lens, I also had a 45mm/2.8 wide and 150mm/4 long lens. While I never used the long lens, the 45mm was a great choice for traveling. I also had two film magazines and a metered prismn finder for the camera, which I also didn’t use much. I really preferred the waistlevel finder and a small handheld light meter hanging around my neck looking extremely nerdy. Honestly, the set, excluding the prism finder and the 150mm lens, was pretty perfect for traveling. The camera is reliable and not too heavy. The electronic shutter needs a battery that lasts quite long at least. I’m not a big fan of electronic shutters but I’m able to tolerate as long as the camera works. The lenses are good but not great though. They would lose the direct comparison to Zeiss lenses for Hasselblad or old Nikkor lenses for the Bronica S. But they are good when compared to Pentax or the later Bronica Zensanon.  

I guess it’s a valid question why I decided to sell the entire system in the end.  Before Christmas I decided to simplify my camera collection and decided to let go of the Mamiya 645Pro and kept the Mamiya 645AF which seem to have a couple of advantages. Admittedly, the AF isn’t as compact but lenses are good, the auto focus is fast for a medium format camera and the meter works just fine. 

Enjoy the photos I took in Agra and Delhi in 2015. 

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Places – Bunaken Island, Indonesia

I made some changes to the blog. Ich changed the theme but also cleaned up the categories and added some of them to the top menu.

Bunaken is a small island off the coast of North Sulawesi, Indonesia. It’s a beautiful place without wide roads, cars and large chain resorts. I love going there for diving and during my last visit in March 2016 I took my Mamiya 645AF with me planning to walk around with it. I went there four times before but only brought an underwater camera and also never visited the villages. It’s less than one kilometer from the Bunaken Cha Cha resort to the nearest village and an about thirty minute walk to Bunaken village, the main village of the island.

Around Bunaken Cha Cha resort. I didn’t take many images of and around the resort. I just wanted the portraits of my dive guide as well as the captain of the dive boat.

 

Late afternoon going to the jetty. 

 

Sunday afternoon in Bunaken village.

 

Before sunset in the village.

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Camera talk – an affordable panorama camera

Let me put one thing straight right at the beginning. What I really want is a Fuji 6×17 or maybe a medium format Widelux. On a good day I might settle for a MF Noblex. However, these are pretty much out of reach right now. So I settled for an older Russian Horizont made in the years of 1972 and 1973. The younger “plastic” version Horizont 202 can also be found on eBay and lomography even sells a range of new Horizon cameras.

Soon after my camera arrived, I shot the first roll on top of Saentis mountain in Switzerland. After developing the roll, I found lots of light leaks. Also some the shutter speeds were pretty off. All images seemed to be out of focus due to camera shakes. I got the problems fixed, shot the next film and found some more light leaks while the speed issues were resolved. The camera went back to the clinic. I shot another roll when I got it back and all frames were just a little bit out of focus. Oh well, I thought, and put the camera into the shelve to spend the rest of its days there. When I picked up another camera from the repair shot, I gave it a try and ask the guy to take a look again and he found out that the lens was a bit lose changing focus a tiny bit. I went to the nearest store selling film, got a roll of Ilford FP4+ with twenty four exposures to have another test run. I didn’t have high hopes but tried anyway.

I strolled along Munich’s Christmasmarket and up Kaufinger Straße to Stachus. People seem to look at this strange apparatus but don’t seem to get its function. An American guy asked me what that thing is and I showed him how the camera worked with its rotating lens. Then I had a cup of hot punch, shot one more frame and the film was done.

Since it was a dark and wet December day, I shot the film at ISO400. I developed in Rodinal (1+25, 20min) and when I scanned the film, I was happy to see all was good and well focused. To be honest, I was surprised how sharp these images were and also how well FP4+ behaved being pushed about two stops. The contrast is as expected a bit higher and the shadow detail is suffering a bit but all things considered the images look quite good. The sharpness is excellent and the detail free grain in the dark areas isn’t annoying at all.

There is not much thrill handling the camera. It has shutter speeds from 1/30 down to 1/250 of a second and aperture from 2.8 to 16. The lens is a 2.8/28mm lens. The depth of field depends on the chosen aperture, for example at 2.8 it starts at about 5m to infinity while it’s just 1m for aperture 16. Inserting the film can be tricky but YouTube features some how to do it videos. The most difficult thing is not to get a finger in the way of the lens. Shooting becomes a bit “inconvenient” since holding the camera, as I normally do, would certainly be visible on the negs. The new versions like the 202 have a special grip while you just need to be careful with the older releases.

The entire process from buying to having a functioning camera took me about a year. Now I have a working panorama camera that gives excellent output (as long as it lasts). The It doesn’t really replace the wish of having a Fuji 6×17 but it helps that craving to shoot wide for a while.

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Film talk – HP5+ pulled to ISO100

It seems that in our digital age the concept of b&w photography is taken literally by the absence of grey tones in many monochrome images. To make matters worse a lot of the analog community also seems to love that “crunchy” look. Some “reinvented” film stock hit the market in the past year that just gathers to this market while I wonder whether these people would be better off using a mirrorless digital cam. I suppose running no around with a Leica Mx loaded with Ferrania P30 is a real hipster thing today. I wonder what was hip in my days and the only thing I can come up with is a stonewashed pair of jeans. You know what I’m trying to say? Yes, in a couple of years these guys will look like a sad bunch of losers. Like the guys who still wear stonewashed jeans.

Anyway, I guess I’m mostly kidding so far. But when it comes to gray and richness of tonality, I’m getting dead serious. I know what Ansel Adam is teaching us and I believe his book “the negative” is essential to film photography and processing. I might not be a big fan of his most famous images of NP Yosemite but I highly value his zone system theory. It’s still just a model with its limitation in the just impossibly high number of photographic situations but I think it just does fine in almost all situations.

Here is how it works for me and not just for sheet film but medium format. Let’s say you want to shoot a role on a sunny late autumn day with long deep shadows. I would guesstimate the range from the highlights to the darkest shadows to be seven stops. The film can maybe take five stops or a bit more. Now the decision needs to be made whether to have details in the shadows and burn out the highlights or have no detail in the shadows left. Or, you can compress the seven stops into the available range of five by exposing for the shadow detail and developing for the lights.

Ilford HP5+ rated at ISO 100 instead of its nominal speed of 400 and developing it for -2 stops drops even three stops in tonal range. I should easily be able to compress all seven stops onto the film. And as the images show, it worked quiet well. There is literally no dark shadow without detail and the highlights are far from being blown out. The tonal range is used without emphasizing on backs and white filling the images with lovely grays. The images show a nice range I‘m surprised the detail contrast is still quite good and that grain has almost disappeared. Also the images are still quite sharp.

I shot another roll on a similar day with the first snow at ISO 200 looking forward to share it here. This will also continue the Rolleiflex 6008 nightmare. In the meantime I’ll work on some images taken with the finally fully repaired Horizon, an old Russian panorama camera, and another “the last roll post since I sold my Mamiya 645 stuff.

stay tuned …

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Praktica history – chapter four – the Praktica FX2

In my first post a about the history of praktica cameras, I wrote about the very first praktica manufactured by Kamera Werkstaette Niederselitz near the Saxonian city Dresden. The target was to make an effortable camera for the people who had an increased desire to take pictures of their lives after WWII. In 1952 the original camera was replaced by the praktica fx. The big new thing were the flash synchronisation ports for fast syncing bulbs (F) and electronic flashes (X). Otherwise the camera stayed pretty much the same with waiste level finder and the fact that the aperture wasn’t automatically set when hitting the shutter but needed to be pre-set. 

In 1955 a new model was introduced, the praktica III or FX2 or FX3. The model I got was made in 1956 and was one of the last without automatic aperture setting. However, my camera came with an insert to change the waiste level finder into a nice and bright prismn finder. Also, the camera was sold with a Carl Zeiss Biotar 58mm/f2 lens which i desperately wanted to have. There aren’t many differences between the FX versions optically. Aperantly the finder of the FX2 is improved to be brighter. Also later versions come with the automatic aperture setting which improves focusing a lot. For me one of the most painful things of my FX2 is the focusing: open up aperture, then focus and then back to the target aperture. It makes me want to shoot fully open all the time.

In general the FX2 handles quite intuitive. Focusing takes time but works well especially with the prismn finder. The release in front needs a bit of getting used to but it’s smooth and makes a nice dull sound. Yeah, dull and deep, not as annoyingly high pitched as a Leica. These old cameras often have problems with the film transport. This one does as well. I can never get the film tightly wrapped around the empty reel which makes it harder and harder to advance the film and leads to horrible scratches and half winded frames towards the end. That’s and the fact that I took quite a number of personal photos is the reason that there are only three images coming from two rolls of film here. I have an idea how I can insert the film a bit better and make sure it’s tight. I’ll lose a couple of frames but still better than losing many later.

At this point I wanted to say a couple of things about the lens on my FX2: the Biotar 58mm/f2. However, I think the lens is worth to have its own post but to get there I have to shoot some more rolls. In the first picture below taken on Fomapan 400, it can already be seen how incredibly sharp the lens is. I didn’t have a chance to check the bokeh yet which is the other outstanding feature of the lens. 

The other two images are taken on Fomapan Retro 320, a low contrast, high grain film with anti-halation layer that gives the last image a certain gloominess. I like the grain and I think the film is good for contrast scenes without many small details. 

Coming back to the camera for the summary: in 1956 the FX2 was everything one needed to have a great tool to take pictures. I certainly don’t need all the fancy things dSLRs have nowadays but I really look forward to the introduction of the automatic preset of the aperture in one of the next Praktika I’ll get. Focusing will be so much more convenient and efficient.

In my next posts I’ll write some more about the Rolleiflex 6008 nightmare and pushing and pulling of Ilford’s HP5+. 

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Camera talk – the Rolleiflex 6008, should I stay or should I go

There is one piece of German engineering that is hopelessly overdone, heavy, bulky to call out a few things and you don’t really want that thing in your house: the Rolleiflex 6008, a powerplay that can be used to shoot square photos on medium format film as well. But it seems, I can’t really sell it either. Some voice is saying “keep me, keep me, I’m worth every penny you paid for me”. Hope dies last and I still resist to hit that “sell” button on eBay.

The thing that bothers me the most is weight and form factor. While a Hasselblad hugs your hands smoothly and quietly hangs lens down when not using it, the Rolleiflex drags you down like a pair of cement boots while shooting and is always in the way somehow when not. What I mean is that a Hasselblad’s weight is distributed horizontally and it’s almost like a sleeping baby in your hands. The Rolleiflex with its motor drive and prism finder tends to be more vertical and the heavy lens makes it hang on your shoulders like a sack of potatoes. Believe me, the camera is always in the way. 

Another very annoying thing is that the camera has some kind of malfunction. Randomly the camera would open and close the leaf shutter in the lens as it’s supposed to do. However, the mirror doesn’t go back down, the shutter stays close and the film wouldn’t advance. The entire camera is stuck for a random amount of time. At some point pressing the shutter again will bring the camera back to life. The problem with the Rolleiflex 6008 is that everything is electronic. The lens has ten contacts to the body, the film back six and the battery four. The first thing I did was to make sure there is always a fresh battery in the camera. Sometimes these old electronic parts have high leakage and the battery runs down much faster. However, that wasn’t the issue. Then I cleaned all the contacts and it seemed to work in the dry run for at least two weeks. I even shot one full film without the malfunction occurring. When I put in the next film it happened again and I was back brainstorming. Checking all the contacts again, one pin going to the film holder was shorter than the others hinting a loose spring. I fixed it with some aluminum foil and finished the roll without issues. Now, I’ll be back on the dry run and at some point I’ll load the next film without removing the back. 

It seems the camera really drives me nuts while it also has its perks. The 80mm HFT lens is one of the sharpest I’ve ever shot with. It even beats the Hasselblad 80mm Planar and I wouldn’t complain about it at all. The camera also has three metering modes. I have to say the matrix metering is quite good and the 1% spotmeter comes in very handy. There is another mode that calculates the average of five spots as well. As far as I can tell this is pretty advanced for a MF camera and the metering hasn’t failed me. I also like the film Magazin with the built in dark slide. It is most certainly one of the more brilliant strokes the German engineers had designing this camera. How often did you misplace a dark slide of the Hasselblad?

I’m still not sure to keep it or sell it. The camera is not the same fun like my Hasselblad 500c/m and of course it’s not good to always worry about the malfunction occurring again. But sellin* it on eBay as defect would score me almost no money anymore. I just can hope the aluminum foil fixed the issue with the shorter magazin to body contact. 

I’ll also throw some ballast off shooting the next film. The so called action grip as well as the prismn finder have to go. Maybe using the camera in a Hasselblad fashion will help me to like it more. 

Enjoy the images below. They are shot on Fuji Superia 400 which isn’t available for MF any longer. I don’t shoot a lot of color but that’s a film I really like. 

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One roll, one topic – autumn mood in b&w

All you need to catch the mood during fall is a film camera, some black and white film and a little bit of determination to find the spirit of autumn beyond the warm colors. Yes, you’ve heard right: black and white film and I’ll explain why.

There is more to autumn than its warm, yellow, red and brown colors. There is the low sun and the long shadows, the decay of last summer’s flowers, bushes and trees, the muddy smell in the woods. There are so many aspects b&w film can capture with exception of the smell of course. And I didn’t catch any fog yet which certainly belongs to autumn as well. 

What made me choose Ilford PanF+? The easy answer is: I still had a roll in the fridge, winter is coming and I better use it before the really dark days come. I seldom shoot ISO 50 and when I do I ask myself afterwards why don’t I use it more often. I love shooting with a wide open aperture getting that limited DoF that makes images so much more exciting and I’m not yet talking about the lovely bokeh an open lens produces. At least the 80mm/2.8 Planar on my Hasselblad gives pleasing pentagonal shapes. In addition PanF+ performs excellently renditioning grey tones and the contrast is very pleasing. The grain is hardly visible which makes the film the perfect choice for nature shots and details.

The low ISO of the PanF+ as well as the high contrast call for a balanced development and I think a semi-stand in Rodinal works best. I developed the film for one hour in a highly diluted (1:100) solution. I usually agitate medium format film two times after the initial one minute of agitation after ten and thirty minutes. 

You might wonder why there are only eight frames instead of twelve here. The calculation is quite easy. Two images are of private nature since I never post images of family, friends or myself with the exception of having acquired a permission to do so. One frame I shot twice since I wasn’t sure about the framing. And last but not least, frame number twelve was never shot. That makes it eight frames you can see here.

Enjoy and don’t hesitate to comment. In my next post I’ll show some colorful fall images taken with a Rolleiflex 6008. However, it’s less about the colors but reasoning whether to keep the camera or sell it.


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Film talk – Adox Colour Implosion

When I shopped for films last summer, I came acros an experimental film that is only available for a limited time by Adox. The name of the film sounded intriguing “Adox Colour Implosion”. Yeah, what do you make out of this?

Adox itself writes about the following about the film:

“Did your parents drop off a roll of film in the 70ies in a one dollar shop for cheap development and you just found it on your attic? In this case your images might look like if they were taken on color implosion. Colour implosion fears the grain of an 800 ISO film combined with the effective speed of a 100 ASA film. On top we pre-treated it so the color coupling system partially collapsed. With this grain and these light desaturated colors no one will think that you are still shooting digital.” 

Wow, sounds weird and quite a bit hipster-ish. I tried anyway, got a role, left it in the fridge for a while and shot it a couple of weeks ago to catch some imploded autumn colors using the Contax RTSII, a 50mm/1.8 and a 55mm/4 macro. 

My first thought when I saw the blue-magenta vase color was, am I going to be able to scan that beast? However, it scanned surprisingly well. It seems the Silverfast software can handle a wide range of base colors. I played a bit with the film profiles and ended up with Fuji NPH. I tried to set a grey point where I had one but didn’t bother too much. The colors weren’t “real” anyway and I did the final adjustment according to my liking in Lightroom. 

At the time I scanned the film, I haven’t read the Adox info about the film yet. I looked at the grain and I went “Wow, this is an ISO100 film. How can that be?  The grain looks more like an ISO800.” Ok, the Adox intro explains it. It’s supposed to be this way. Honestly speaking it works for me. There is a lot of grain but one could almost call it fine and subtile. The grain is also responsible for this incredible detail in the focus areas.

I’ve seen lots of images online with a yellow-greenish colorcast and really flat colors. However, I didn’t really experience any of these. For sure, the colors aren’t as saturated as a normal color film. And yes, if the reds are correct, the blue of the sky might end up wrong. I followed my personal taste and hardly modified anything in Lightroom.

Enjoy the images! Feedback is very much appreciated. There is quite a number of great photos shot on Adox Colour Implosion in this Flickr group.

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