Tag Archives: Germany

The return of contrast – film talk

I guess my plans to write a blog post every week is an illusion. However, I’ll try harder (lol). My Lightroom library is full with edited and unedited photos. I still have a couple of undeveloped films waiting to be soaked. At least I can keep up better with the scanning. Maybe I post some of the images under the “places” category with less text. Also, I enjoy writing these … but it’s all about time.

Today, I share some images I took recently. A couple of years ago I purchased ten rolls of Rollei RPX 25 at a very much discounted price on macodirect.de. I admit I didn’t know what to do with them. I’m not a shooter of slow film. Sometimes, I shoot a roll of Ilford PanF just to realize that I should shoot it more often but then I seldom find the right moment. 

Finally, the right developer got me to take out the RPX 25 out of the fridge. Spur Speed Major allows me to shoot from box speed up to ISO 200. The first two rolls I shot at ISO 100 expecting some pretty high contrast, loss of detail in the shadows and missing mid tones. To my surprise the contrast is punchy while neither the mid tones nor shadow detail go away which isn’t common for pushing two stops. 

The ISO 25 film has pretty much no grain which isn’t helping for the “digitally felt” sharpness. However, I would assume a darkroom print would look quite fine as usual I didn’t sharpen the scanned image anyway. The images were taken with my 6×6 work horse, the Hasselblad 500c/m with the 80mm/2.8 standard lens. 

I’m usual looking for “anti-contrast” and the rich greys. High contrast as seen in all these pseudo street pics annoys me incredibly. But here it perfectly works. Blacks are deep and whites are shinning but all the tones in between are present as well which makes the film and developer a perfect couple.

 

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Fomapan 100 is the new Acros

After ranting about the digital camera manufactures and their pixel dreams of growth, i’m going to talk about …

Baumkuchen

Thinking about it there isn’t a cake being more German than Baumkuchen. Somehow it’s complicated to make since it’s built later by layer with some filling in between. It might come with chocolate or other frosting. But most importantly the pride of German baking tradition tastes mostly dry. If there wasn’t the Japanese. I found a Japanese bakery in the takashimaya department store in Singapore that makes the most delicious Baumkuchen on earth. I quickly got addicted to the Kuchen and the long queues told me I wasn’t alone.

So, what’s the point?

There was someone Japanese who took on this dull German thing and made it a modern and great tasting desert. It’s still the same old thing conceptionally but at the same time it’s something brand new and exciting attracting new customers and markets

Let’s talk about Fuji Acros

I think Fuji did a similar thing with developing Fuji Acros 100. Technically, it’s a black&white film. It even has the feel and touch of one. However, looking at the scanned image it doesn’t look like analog anymore. However, it doesn’t look like a digital picture either. The dynamic range is way bigger than a digital sensor could handle but the absence of grain let’s one wonder. The film handles underexposure quite well. The contrast is rather high but shadows are still beautifully detailed. To make it short, the film is perfect just like the Baumkuchen I was talking about. And while I liked the Baumkuchen a lot, I never shot a roll of Acros in my life. It is interesting to observe that the ingredients that make the perfect desert don’t interest me in a photographic film. While the perfect taste seems to be an achievable goal, the perfect look is not and needs to be placed one step ahead, permanently.

Now that Fuji Acros won’t be around much longer

many are trying to build a little stock. Prices for the remaining material in the market are going up already. Here in Germany the medium format seems already sold out. I admit I also got some rolls right after Fuji’s announcement to discontinue the film. Finally, I can try knowing all perfection has an ending. I also haven’t eaten the Japanese Baumkuchen for over five years now. However, I’m glad to find Juchheim’s Baumkuchen still around. The company was founded by the German Karl Juchheim in Tsingtao, China in 1909. Later the company moved to Japan and after WWII the Japanese employees took over the company and have run it since. 

In the meantime …

I ordered lots of Fomapan 100 for the summer. Developed in the correct chemicals the film can deliver awesome results. The grain is subtile, contrast is high, the image is sharp and shadow detail is there as well. So, it’s just like Acros at a fraction of the price. Although, this was kind of unexpected. Before I developed most ISO 100 films in Rodinal and results were ok. However, I’m always looking to find the perfect match of film and chemistry. I already decided that Fomapan 100 isn’t my cup of tea but I found the roll in the fridge and needed some slow film to go with sun and snow. I also just acquired a bottle of Spur SLD high speed developer and gave it a trial. The developer allows to shoot at nominal speed or even faster. Also an additive was developed to achieve even higher speeds and still keep the contrast increase and loss of shadow details under control. I’ve been trying quite some film and speed combinations and the developer has not let me down yet. My favorites are Ilford HP5+ rated at ISO 800-1600 and the Fomapan 100 at boxspeed. Getting to high sensitivities isn’t the only advantage of the developer. For some film contrast can be controlled by one or two stops. That’s pretty cool considering a very moderate loss in the shadow areas as it’s often the case for push developers.

Let the results speak for themselves …

Some links … the Juchheim company making the amazing Baumkuchen … Spur SLD developerFomapan website

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Pulling HP5+ and some thoughts about trying new things

I’m an engineer and I spent most of my time making things faster, smaller und cheaper for the sole purpose of increasing the share holder value of the company I work for. How are investors kept happy? One thing is making enough money to pay a hefty dividend. Another, increasing the market capitalization and again another reducing cost while making more money. But the most important is to tell the investors that the company has a vision how to grow in the future. 

It seems that the digital camera industry just works the same way and the best story seems to be the number of megapixel. Nikon seems to lead the dSLRrace with the 45MPixel D850. The Sony alpha a99 follows with 42MPixels. There is even a mirror less Sony a7r that features 42MPixels as well. Sorry, but this is just crazy. When I got out of the digital race, my pro dSLR had just sixteen lousy MPs. At the time of purchase that Nikon flagship cost me about $4000 (body only) and when I sold it a couple of years later it wasn’t worth much.

I also participated in the mirror less race quite a bit since I liked the concept but never liked the results. It all started with the first digital Olympus Pen. Nice Retro looking piece but the images just “to cry for”. I had to edit every frame heavily and the absence of an unsharp region drove me nuts. Later I tried a Fuji X100 with the fixed 35mm pancake lens. Also, I loved the looks of it and actually the results were quite ok but it wasn’t quite versatile. Much later when I already switched back to analog, I tried a highly appraised Olympus OM-D since the Hasselblad died due to a little bit of ice cream jamming the mirror. That was the last resort. I’m sticking to film and I rather stop shooting than going back to serious digital photography. 

I like to be slow and focus with my own hands. I enjoy looking at 12 frames instead of 200 at the end of a day. I think about film, developer, speed and contrast before I go shooting. I’m crazy about collecting all these weird ass cameras and only spend little money on them. For me it’s all about the experiment and the unknown results trying new film stock or chemistry. Messing things up and starting all over again is part of this game. And when I tried it all, I hope there will be Ilford HP5+ which is in the end all one needs to take great photos.

 That’s why here some frames on Ilford HP5+ pulled to ISO200 and developed in my last stock of Spuersinn’s HCDnew. The images were taken with my more than bitchy Rolleiflex 6008. I still don’t know what to do with this camera. 

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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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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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