Monthly Archives: November 2017

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+. 


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. 


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.


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.