I write here before about my endeavors with the old horizon panorama camera. The odyssey continued since the next role I shot had light leaks again. However, I didn’t want to miss that film format. I started looking for all kinds of panorama cameras on eBay. There were some new horizons on the market but I hesitated because there i already one in the household. The Noblex 135 for a decent price are mostly “sport” versions without a level inside the viewfinder. One day I saw a Noblex 150, the medium format version for a decent price. I wrote the guy that he will never sell for this price but I’m willing to go for €100 less. He agreed, started a new buy-it-now and I got the camera.
The camera arrived in a nice aluminum case it seemed to work as well, but of course I’m not that lucky. Exposing the first real film, I discovered that the camera doesn’t always fire or when it does it’s way to slow. The price I paid was too high to just take the loss. Therefore my first reaction was to return it. Thinking about, I still had such an attractive price that it might be ok to get it fixed. So, I postponed this decision after getting the opinion of my favorite if not the only camera repair guy I know. He told me that it’s most likely the rubber belts driving the movement of the lens that a dry and loose after so many years. The €100 he charged to fix it made the decision easy.
I ran the first roll through the camera on the same day. I still struggled a bit with loading the film and keeping the 1.8kg heavy thing straight. The horizontal level is inside the viewfinder while the vertical tilt can be seen only outside. The camera was originally developed for landscape photography assuming the camera is mounted on a tripod. However, I think it’s much more fun to use it in urban or suburban places using to camera tilt as means of expression especially in narrow places.
I was wonderung what exposure speeds are possible handheld. The rotation of the lens seems even at 1/250 awfully slow. Online I’ve found the information that it’s safe to hold 1/250 or 1/125 of a second and I didn’t have any problems with it. I guess it’s always good to choose a fast film to be able to do that. The images are extremely sharp. There is just a little bit of distortion in the extreme corners of the image. The model I have has a built in 5mm lens shift upwards. That helps with the composition without tilting the camera. Another cool feature is the three step zone focus. One meter, five and infinity can be chosen. I haven’t tried it yet but I always find it more interesting to have a limited depth of field.
There are two things that I didn’t get used to yet: the fingers need to stay away from the orbit of the lens. Otherwise, you have them on the negative. Also the camera back opens fairly easily. You will loose at least two of the 6 frames of a film.
It’s truly a cool camera. A bit heavy for sure but the five times twelve centimeter negative covering an angle of one hundred and fourth six degree is worth hauling that thing around. Stay tuned. There will be more soon.
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.
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.
I don’t take the distagon c 40mm f/4 out very often. It’s a really nice wide angle lens but it’s bulky and heavy. The lens is sharp and looking through the waistlevel finder is amazing. The lens still has a small enough depth of field at f/5.6 to work with (compared to the 24mm equivalent for 35mm film). Another very nice feature is the close focus of 45cm: the lens gets close and is wide which is a very special way approaching photographic objects.
The images below were taken during a car show using Rollei Retro 400s developed in Rodinal (1:50, 20C, 22min, reduced agitation: 2x every two minutes).
After reading about the film on Martin Zimelka’s website I got a couple of rolls and tried it out. The film is a super-panchromatic film with extended sensitivity into the infrared range. For it’s relatively high speed the film has very small but visible grain resulting in the visual experience of extreme sharpness. Zooming in the scanned imaged reveals the sharpest image I’ve ever seen from an analog photo before. However, some might say that the sharpness comes from the excellent Nikon lenses manufactured for the early Bronica 6×6 systems. I guess both, the lens and the film, play their parts leading to unrivaled sharpness.
Just as the slower brother, the Retro 80s, the film has a clear film base which makes it easy to scan. Right now I have no experience printing the film in the wet lab. The Retro 400s has intrinsically a very high contrast and taming it is a good idea to get richer tones in the middle of the spectrum.
I set the meter to ISO 200 with the plan to increase agitation during development from 1min to 2min as well. The day was also very bright and sunny putting a lot of contrast into the images as well. I used Rodinal and a dilution of 1:50 to develop the film. I used the same development time of 22min as for a speed setting of 400 but I reduced the agitation as mentioned before hoping to get a bit more of that compensation effect.
The results are speaking for themselves. The images are super sharp with good contrast while retaining all the mid tones as well. Skin tones (no example shown) come out quite bright and a bit unnatural due to the film’s sensitivity to red. I can see this kind of sharpness and grain being used for portrait photography but not for every subject. In my opinion the film is more suited for architectural, urban landscape and detail photography. Although, breaking with the “rules” always Now I’m curious how the film performs with a red or even infrared filter. … I will update you soon …
Camera: Bronica C
Film: Rollei Retro 400s
Development: Rodinal 1:50, 20°C, 22min, 30sec constant agitation and every 2min thereafter.
Please tell me about your experience and copy links to your images taken on Rollei Retro 400s