Tag Archives: black and white

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. 


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.


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.


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 …


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+. 


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.


The last roll – I sold my Konica Hexar AF

I love to get new cameras and try them out. However, I’ve come to a point having so many cameras and not being neither able nor willing to use them all. Yeah, I have cameras that cost €30. I shot one or two films with it and they are sitting in the shelf now waiting for better days or just enjoying a well deserved retirement. I’m not going to bother about these anyway. 

Then, I have cameras that were quite expensive (range of €300 to €800), that are loaded with features or gimmicks (from the eye of the beholder) and I still don’t use them. The first item on the chopping block is a Konica Hexar AF. I believe I’ve owned it for about two years and I shot three (tops four) films with it.

Why did I buy the camera in the first place? Since giving up 100% on digital photography, I’ve slowed down a lot. I only own one autofocus camera and that is a heavy and bulky Mamiya 645AF. So, i thought it’s time to get a bit faster again and to invest in that little AF support since my eyesight is deteriorating more and more. The article  of the Japan Camera Hunter certainly intrigued me into getting the Hexar AF, It is interesting how the “advanced” compact camera market changed and how more and more people are going crazy to get their hands on a Ricoh GR, a Contax G and a Konica Hexar AF. 

What bothers me about the camera? I guess I never got warm with the feel and the handling of the camera. I shot a film. It was ok but i wasn’t really thrilled with the results. Sometimes when I focus on a subject close to me by pressing the shutter half way and move the frame and press the shutter, the camera starts to focus like crazy and the shot has its focus far behind the chosen object. Yes, I’m in single AF mode and not continuous AF. Often it just works but it is annoying since the behavior reduces the number of good frames.

Second and in my opinion the main reason, I can’t get attached to the camera, is it’s speed. I shoot, the machine loads the next frame automatically, and I shoot again. It’s like shot after shot and feels like digital photography without its advantages of course. Also, before even a couple of satisfying images had built up in my head, the film is already gone. In other words, the camera doesn’t slow me down enough and I just don’t enjoy the “autobahn” style of photography.

There is another thing that drives me nuts. I love high speed films and hardly use film rated under 400. I love pushing films even in normal daylight. The problem is the fastest shutter speed is 1/250 and end up shooting with arpartures of 16 or 22. It’s a nightmare to come up with images that all look like taken with a phone. 

Some minor things that bother me are: finding the manual ISO settings, manual focus is pretty much unusable, exposure adjustment is always reset when the camera is switched off.

Here are the last images I took with the Konica Hexar AF before selling it on eBay. I took the camera to a Renaissance fair close to my home. As usual quite a number of shots are focused somewhere behind the main subject as I described before. However, the shots that are focused correctly are spot on. The lens is incredibly sharp and the autofocus is quite fast to be able the react fast and take the right shot. It also reminded me of the days when I was shooting right into people’s faces more often. But, as I said before, the yield of good shots is quite low. 

While I scanned and edited the images, I felt a bit of regret but it was too late. The camera had been sold already. I know I wouldn’t use it often and hopefully the next owner knows how to appreciate the camera better.

The images are taken on Ilford Delta 400 pulled to ISO 200 and developed in Spuersinn HCDnew. 


A walk along the river Elbe with a Hasselblad, Rollei Retro 400s and a red filter

One of the largest man made park landscapes in Europe can be found close to Dessau in the German state of Sachsen-Anhalt. The area is great for hiking and cycling since it’s loaded with parks and their noble residences. Also 1919 The Bauhaus art and design school settled in Dessau and many typical Bauhaus landmarks can be found here. In my last post I wrote about the “Meisterhaeuser”, the houses of the Bauhaus masters. In my new post you can find some images of the Kornhaus designed and built by the Bauhaus architect Carl Fieger as an restaurant and event complex in 1930. In 2012 the restaurant was re-opened and I certainly enjoyed having lunch on the terrace. 

Ok, let me write about the photography now. The format 6×6: that’s something that was hard for me when I started taking images with the Hasselblad. However, soon enough I realized that the square is a great format and it doesn’t have the limitations of other “cuts”. The subject can as well be centered as off center. All that matters that the extra space is “filled” with something interesting compared to a portrait or landscape shot. 

The film Rollei Retro 400s: usually I’d use it for urban subjects but not for landscapes. The fine grain, the high contrast and the excellent sharpness work well for architectural  photos. I’m positively surprised that the film also has a wide range of grey tones and that the contrast can be tamed. 

The red filter: in short it darkens the blues, lightens the reds. A nice effect is the brighter greens as well. Although, it’s not that strong in summer compared with the fresh greens in spring time. I like how white clouds and bright buildings get this natural glow against the darker blue sky. The effect can certainly be driven to an extreme as  it’s done in infrared photography. Here I appreciate the filter’s subtleness. My favorite is the last image. The sun was setting against a cloudy sky. The llight green of the trees and all these nice grey tones work harmonically together. I didn’t know the red filter would work this well in the evening.


One roll, one topic – the Bauhaus Meisterhaeuser in Dessau

I think I tried several times to take decent images of the Bauhaus Meisterhaeuser in Dessau and I’m not sure I succeeded this time. The three double houses for the Bauhaus masters and the single house for the director were built in a small pine forest between 1925 and 1926. The architect Walter Gropius assembled cubic shapes of different sizes and envisioned an industrial Lego to build the houses. The houses have spacious patios and balconies as well as large windows on the sides illuminating the stairways. The    street side of the houses are mostly shaped by the large atelier windows. 

Now let me talk about the challenges of shooting these houses. There is trees allover the place. They are everywhere and really ruin the light as well as an unblocked view. On the other hand, these tall parallel pine trees somehow underline the cubic architecture and sometimes a tree cleverly breaks the parallelism. I guess I was rather luck with the light and the sun even broke through the clouds. I took this as a chance to use a dark red filter and together with the Rollei Retro 400s film it lightened the greens which looks quite fresh compared to the expected heavy dark above the white buildings.

Another quite annoying issue is that the space is very limited. Regardless of the lens used, lines will be falling and nothing is worse trying to portrait a design based on parallel lines and 90deg angles. Sometimes it seems beneficial to make the falling lines even stronger by using a wide angle lens or a low point of view but except using a large format camera or a tiltshift lens, we need to live with it. 

None of the images show the street side views of the houses. I tried one out of twelve and didn’t find it worthy to be shown here. The issues with the trees, the light and the falling lines just seem to be worse. However, maybe a good reason to return and focus on the street facing side.

Last but not least, I want to make some comments about the choice of film. Rollei Retro 400s is a fine grain emulsion that is also very sharp as well as high contrast. I think it’s a good pick to shoot architecture. However, I usually tame the contrast a bit by shooting at ISO 200 and reducing agitation during development. 

The last image doesn’t show one of the original houses. The homes of the directors were destroyed during the last days of WWII. In 2014 new houses were built but they do not resemble the originals. These two houses are new interpretations of the old without being the old.

i will continue with a bit more Bauhaus in a couple of days. Until then, enjoy.


Umbrellas and reflection

Hey, it’s raining today. Let’s take the umbrella, load the hasselblad with fast film and play in the puddles outside. You don’t have to ask twice, your kids and most of the photographers will always follow the first call. My good friends from Tel Alviv, Victor and Sergio Bezrukov, accompanied me on this rainy September day to explore a different look of Munich. By the way, both make excellent  models as well.

A couple of hours in the city are always a good reason to get out the bulky and heavy 40mm distagon for the hasselblad. I also left the back with the TriX pushed to ISO 1600 on the camera to gain some freedom in exposure but also for the increased contrast by means of extended development. While TriX pushes well, the film starts to lose details in the shadows pushed to ISO 1600 adding to the already strong high “contrasty” feeling.

Next time you get out in the rain, find umbrellas that add pattern and shape to your images. Don’t forget to look out for the reflections in the puddles of rain water. 

Check out Victor Bezrukov’s images here. These were taken with a Fuji GA645 and Bergger Pancro pushed to ISO 800.