Tag Archives: kodak

Praktica history – chapter two – the bx20s

I started my shopping for Praktica SLR with the KW and an older Tessar 50/2.8. Now I’m going straight to the last model the BX20s which was manufactured between 1992 and 2001. Altogether 33,319 BX20s were built during these nine years. I got three prakticar lenses with the camera: 50/1.8 standard lens, a 135/2.8 tele and a 35-70/3.5 zoom lens. I took out the later first since I haven’t used a zoom lens in ages.

The camera comes with a pretty convenient auto ISO detection as long as the film has a DX code. You can also choose to push or pull two stops. Setting the ISO manually is a bit limited and only allows a range from 25 to 400. I also haven’t figured out a way to switch the ISO detection off. However, I’m not sure if this is needed since the +/-2 stops seem sufficient.

Using the centerweighted metering combined with the aperture priority “automatic” mode also comes in handy. I like to choose the aperture to decide what depth of field I want and let the camera do the rest and just watch that the speed isn’t too slow. Of course you can also use the manual mode, set the speed you wish to use and then choose the aperture according to the meter reading. 

After taking the camera out of the box and holding it in my hands, it felt kind of “plasticy”, light and not very robust. The back door seems lose and together with the “rapid” film advance lever a bit flimsy. However, I didn’t observe any leaks and the film advance works as well.  Inserting the film is easy and it didn’t take long to get familiar with the features and to start shooting. The finder is very bright and focusing using the split screen is fairly straightforward even for a semi blind person like myself. 

The camera was built at a time when autofocus SLRs already dominated the market. The BX20s was basically the last camera designed and developed in East Germany before the wall collapsed but sold afterwards. Comparing with the Contax RTSIII released around the same time, the BX20s was short of many things e.g. embedded motor drive, 1/8000s shutter speed, the first ttl  spot meter and others. I wonder if the by 1989 more and more declining GDR industry also impacted the once prestigious camera industry. It seems the Pentacon development wasn’t able to keep up with the speed of the industry since the first AF cameras hit the markets in 1985/86. The company had plans to build an AF camera but even though they continued selling the BX20s, they were not able to take the next steps and compete on a very different market.

The lenses are built extremely solid when compared with the camera. It’s all metal and big Carl Zeiss glass. The first roll in the camera was shot with a zoom 35-70mm zoom. Honestly, I didn’t expect much but the lens surprised me. The pictures are sharp, the bokeh is reasonable and taken shots right into the sun is reasonable as well. The macro mode with a magnification of 2:1 is quite usable as well. 

The first roll shot was a Kodak Gold 200 which is a bit on the grainy side but has very natural colors and it’s easy to scan. The camera is easy to handle and is, in spite of being manual, reasonably fast. The automatic aperture priority mode helps a lot and seems to be quite accurate. The BX20s doesn’t add a lot of weight to your bag and is a convenient and reliable companion. I don’t think it will replace my Contax RTSII but I will only know after testing the 50mm/1.8 and 1.4 lenses as well. 

I’ll post images taken with the 135mm/2.8 followed by the 50mm/1.8 next. 

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India – the urban and the rural life

This is supposed to be the last entry of my India trip and I wanted to keep a set of images that show the urban and rural life. Interesting is that the pictures don’t look so different. It seems to me urbanization happened extremely fast and people just brought the village with all its inhabitants into the cities.

Enjoy!

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India – the places – the rest – 2 of 2

I just post a couple of images today showing some more places I visited in India. You can find the other blog posts about my trip here:

Shri Kolayat

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Gadi Sagar Lake

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Chatris Sunset Point

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Jodhpur Jaswant Thada

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India – the people – part 2

It is most certainly the people that make India such an interesting country to travel. I hardly found someone who doesn’t like her or his picture taken. Most people are a bit shy in front of the camera and go into some kind of open eyed coma. Often I waited to get a shot with a little action or stay unnoticed while shooting. Often I was asked for some money after taking the shot which is a bit of an annoyance if it happens again and again.

201508_India_MF5_Portra160_006-EditSadu at the karna mata temple

201508_India_MF21_RPX100_014-Edityoung sikhs, Dehli

201508_India_MF20_Delta400_002-Editplaying, itimad ud daulah

201508_India_MF17_Delta400_010-Editmonkey prayers, hanuman temple, jaipur

201508_India_MF14_Delta400_013-Editvisitor, chittorgarh fort

201508_India_MF14_Delta400_010-Editstudents, chittorgarh fort

201508_India_MF22_Portra160_004-Edit muslim kids, taj mahal, agra

201508_India_MF12_RPX100_015-Editsightseeing, udaipur palace

201508_India_MF12_RPX100_012-Editwaiting, udaipur palace

201506_India_MF2_Delta400_Mamiya645_004-Editkid, mandawa

201506_India_MF2_Delta400_Mamiya645_001-Editold man, Churi Ajitgarh

201508_India_KB7_Foma400_015-Editin white, delhi fort

201508_India_KB7_Foma400_014-Editin line, delhi fort

201508_India_KB7_Foma400_022-Edittatoo, india gate, delhi

201508_India_KB7_Foma400_012-Editrickshaw driver, delhi

201508_India_KB7_Foma400_009-Editbus driver, jaipur

201508_India_KB5_APX100_018-Editman and elephant, udaipur

201508_India_KB4_Portra160_020-Editgoing to work, chandelao garh

201508_India_KB3_APX100_024-Editjust girls

201508_India_KB3_APX100_010-Editjust curious, jaisalmer

201508_India_KB3_APX100_005-Edithanging out, jaisalmer

201508_India_KB3_APX100_022-Editbumpi

201508_India_MF21_RPX100_012-Editin the mosque, delhi

201508_India_MF8_Portra160_008-Editwelcome song, jaisalmer

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the old factory

Old abundant factories always make a good target for photography. Most of them are locked up and access is really prohibited due to an increased risk of accidents. The gate of the old factory for photo chemicals and film in Berlin Koepenick was wide open just inviting me to step inside and have a look. I took some shots of the two buildings left and right but didn’t like the outcome with houses on each side and the big nothing in the center. To be honest, I do struggle with images of architecture and a wide angle lens on the camera.

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I took the much better shots inside even though I find it quite icky. I don’t like the feeling of garbage, broken glass and the rubble under my feet. However, the view from inside is worth the minor suffering. I walked about around on the first floor and got stuck on the stairways where I shot the rest of the role. I used an ISO 100 film and was a bit concerned about the low light. I just set the camera on aperture 4 and 1/60 speed … even though the meter was measuring at least one stop more in the darker areas.

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A relatively new warehouse behind the older building turned out to be a greenhouse. It’s amazing how fast nature takes over its old terrain again. The factory was just closed about 2 years ago and trees already started to grow inside the place.

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All images were taken with a Hasselblad 500C/M on Adox CHS 100. The film was developed in Agfa Rodinal.

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taking the hasselblad to a concert

A hasselblad isn’t really known for its use during a concert. Actually the camera isn’t known to be very versatile outside a photo studio. Although I like to take my hasselblad anywhere but the studio and I started to enjoy the results of images taken in low light. A film that is very versatile and push-able to the extreme is Kodak’s TriX. I’ve used the film at ISO 6400 and beyond developed in Spuersinn HCDnew.

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I have discussed the camera as well as the film. The next question is about the best lens. My thinking for a concert and low light is going wide. Focusing is a bit easier since the depth of field is increased and I have a better chance hitting the focus in dim lighting.

I also think I’m able to get interesting angles and a bit more drama using a wide lens. But this brings me to the next problem: location. Shooting wide means I gotta get close to the stage and that might be a problem in a tiny  crowded place.

Finally, I chose the 40mm/4 Distagon this time. I just got the lens on ebay and was really keen to try it out. I set it on f4 and 1/30 at and started shooting. I also measured and saw that I need a stop more to develop at ISO 6400. Anyway, the setting was the lowest anyway and I started shooting. Maybe I could get away with 1/15s with a 40mm lens but I didn’t want to risk it knowing the hasselblad doesn’t do really well with long shutter speeds.

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The concert took place in a small bar called Gabanyi, a cosy place with a long bar and a few tables while the stuff runs around in white aprons, the kind that people wear in labs. There was a little stage with the piano just lid by two old fashioned lamps on the wall.

The bar was getting pretty crowded. There were some tables right in front of the stage with all seats taken. When the concert started, I quickly finished my beer and squeezed myself between two tables standing right in front of the stage. I realized that the camera plus the lens are quite big and it needs a bit of juggling in a narrow space. I also needed to be careful where to put the camera when not shooting. A small digital point-and-shoot might be more practical. I just wonder if I even would look at the results. Part of the fun is the challenge to master all weird circumstances: the big medium format camera plus the monster 40mm lens, the narrow space, the low light and the film chosen for the task, the shooting location. Considering all this and a bit of luck will lead to some interesting images for sure. I always try to find a good balance between shooting and thinking before clicking. Shooting with film means every time you click the shutter you also use a frame of film. Thinking too much means you never get a full film.

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Finding a balance especially while shooting a band is important. Some out of focus frames will be lost as well as some due to unexpected movements. I tried to limit myself to one film since changing the film or back might have been too much trouble.

Observing the images I see that most are done from a low point of view. That can be explained with the usage of the hasselblad’s waistlevel finder which makes it easier to choose a low view point than a high one. I’ve tried over the head and upside down but I seldom hit the right focus. I also tried during this shoot and it was a wasted frame. Sometimes I get the finder very close to my face and try to stand on my toes to raise the camera as much as possible. Yet, a view from above is only possible from a raised position. These are the things you don’t even realize while shooting but when looking at the results much later.

20150115_theCapitols_TriX_Hasselblad_010-EditMaybe I shortly get back to the film used here: Kodak TriX. There were times I shot a lot of TriX but when I started analog photography again in 2012 I didn’t like it at first and I mostly used Ilford HP5+ and Delta 400. On a recent trips I started shooting TriX again and tried some different developers like Spur Ultraspeed Vario, the new Tetenal Ultrafin T-Plus and Spuersinn HCDnew for push development. After taming the high contrast, it’s now one of my most favorite films again.

I think I need to say some words about the band as well. Hey, they were the real heroes of the evening. “The Capitols” is a young band based in Munich, Germany which usually plays good and solid rock. In the relatively small Gabanyi Bar they tried to go “unplugged”. I think even the band wasn’t sure if this is going to work but it did. The acoustic versions of “Inhale/Exhale” and “Neon Ghetto” totally worked for me. There are three songs promoted on their webpage.

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First look: Tetenal Ultrafin T-Plus

Going on a trip always means seeing new things, meeting different people, eating less known food but also taking lots of new films with you and trying to figure out how to develop them to achieve the wanted look. Of course there is a risk to it: it might not come out the way you imaged it or it could be totally messed up. People tend to do these kind of experiments with shots somewhere around home and easily accessible. But isn’t that kind of boring looking at motives you’ve seen and taken pictures of for so many times? And what’s the worst case scenario messing up completely? You got to go back. Is that really that bad?

On my last trip, I took three films to develop it in the new Tetenal Ultrafin T-Plus which is marketed a a fine grain developer for t-grain and conventional films with slow and average speed. Here are the films:

  1. Kodak TriX which I usually don’t like for it’s high contrast which needs to be tamed.
  2. Fomapan 400 which I like especially developed in Caffenol, Kodak HC110 and Spuersinn HCDnew.
  3. Fomapan 100 which is a bit flat and not really sharp.

The Ultrafin T-Plus (datasheet here) comes in 500ml bottles and costs 15€ here in Germany. According to the datasheet, thirty 135 or 120 films can be developed with one bottle which makes the developer quite economical with 0.50€ per film. The opened bottle can be stored for about six month and the working solution is good for about 2 month. Ultrafin T-Plus is not a one shot developer.

The list of films and the corresponding development times published by Tetenal is rather short and I didn’t find any recipes on FilmDev.org or the Massive Dev Chart.

Kodak TriX rated at ISO 200, developed for 5:30min

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The working solution. First I prepared the working solution by using one part developer and four parts water. 200ml developer and 800ml are needed for 1l solution which can be used to develop 12 rolls of film. The temperature should be around 20°C.

Watering the film. I know there is some people having arguments that pre-soaking the film isn’t really necessary. However, I usually do it anyway since it doesn’t seem to hurt.

Developing the film. Sometimes it needs to be a little bit of calculation to get the correct developing time. I like to push or pull films to get the best out of the situation.

  1. Kodak TriX rated at ISO 200: 8:15min – 20% for pulling 1 stop – 1min for developer 22°C = 5:30min
  2. Fomapan 400 rated at ISO 200: 7:30min – 15% for pulling 1 stop – 30sec for developer at 21°C = 6min
  3. Fompan 100 rated at ISO 100: 4:30min

The tank needs to be agitated for the first 30sec and afterwards 2x every 30sec.

Fomapan 400 rated at ISO 200, developed for 6min

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Stop bath and fixing. I usually just stop with water. Sometimes, when the developing time is short, I also use stop bath. I don’t think it really matters. The fixer I use is standard and I usually give it 5min with 30sec agitation right at the beginning and 10x after 2:30min.

Watering. I agitated 10x, 20x and finally 30x in fresh water. Afterwards I used a washing aid diluted 1+500 for 5min and hang the film up for drying afterwards.

Fomapan 100 developed for 4:30min.

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The result. I think all three films deliver good results. The TriX and the Fomapan 400 are excellent. They show good contrast, sharpness and a nice grain. The TriX was used in difficult light right into the lens and film/developer did a great job. The Fomapan 400 is super sharp and the grain is perfect for a 400 speed film. Both films are pretty good to be pulled and I’m going to use the combination of films and developer again. The Fomapan 100 shows a lot of little white spots in the brighter areas of the film. Contrast and sharpness are extremely good for a 100 ISO film. However, the white spots are annoying.

The next steps. I will post the results of a Fomapan 100 I used with a red filter and I shot an Ilford HP5+ rated at ISO 200 which I plan to develop in Ultrafin T-Plus as well.

 

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