Tag Archives: spuersinn

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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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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India – the places – the rest – 1 of 2

I have a lot of images and still some memories to write down. I’ll split up the places further and add another entry with just faces. Should this be the first post you’re reading, check the others as well:

Nahargarh Fort in Jaipur

The fort was built as retreat overlooking the city of Jaipur. The guards are happy to show you around and explain a couple of things for one hundred rupees. The living rooms of the maharajah are on the one side of the palace while the seven of the eight wives lived along the several hallways leading to the opposite side of the palace where the maharajah’s favorite wife recited.

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Jaipur old city

Jaipur is the biggest city of Rajasthan and it seems the bigger the cities become the messier they are. I started my trip in smaller places enjoying them more. I would the people made the biggest difference which were much less daring in the smaller places. I liked the area behind the city palace. It was a bit quieter and without the busy stores of the main streets. I’m not going to show you the Hawa Mahal (palace of winds). I know it’s the most photographed building in entire India. And yes, I took some pictures of it as well. I’m just not going to post it here.

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Phalodi city

Not many tourists visit the small town on the road from Bikaner to Jaisalmer. However, the Jain temple and a couple of beautiful havelis are worth a look. Here I made the purchase of a colorfully painted window which isn’t anything very old but apparently collected from an old house. Although, the salesman was a jain and it’s said that followers of the jain religion never lie, I believe the window is brand new since I saw similar windows in many tourist traps later on. I still like it and when I look at it, I smile remembering the conversation with the Kanooga brothers.

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Udaipur

I guess the city of Udaipur should have made it in the top 10. The old city with the havelis and hotels lining up at the lake side as well as the roof top restaurants and cafes and of course the palace watching over all this from an elevated position seems like a still uncut gem in Rajasthan. A stroll through the many little streets and narrow paths appears almost enjoyable while still not being comparable with a Sunday afternoon walk in an European metropolis.

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Pushkar

The day I visited Pushkar, hell came down in shape of heavy monsoon rain to this holy place. Pilgrims come to Pushkar to wash in the sacred lake and visit one of the few temples worshiping god Brahma. The lake is surrounded by 52 stone steps down to the lake which are used for sacred bathing as well as religious rituals. Mahatma Gandhi’s ashes were immersed into the lake here as well, Unfortunately, the ghats are also used to extract coin from travelers. The thing starts as a harmless introduction to the ritual to the point being ask for quite large amounts of cash and even credit cards. The argument, that also gods have to eat and that inflation really drives up the prices, didn’t really impress me. I did give some, still far off the requested amount, but seemingly enough to make the heavy rain stop.

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The Agra fort

The Agra fort is more a  walled city than a fort. The current structures were built under the Mughals but the fort goes back to the eleventh century. During my visit I had two film backs, one loaded with color film and the other supposedly with black&white. However, after shooting twelve frames, I realized it was empty. And that was much later in the day with no chance to return to the fort. Now I only have left three images of one of the amazing courts. Dark clouds started to come up in the sky giving the colors a special hue. I’m still mad that the images I took of the marble structures in black&white are lost but I guess that’s karma. Actually, the view from the castle down Yamuna river to the Taj Mahal is just amazing ….

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India – the first roll

I came back from my trip to India with twenty two medium format and seven 35mm rolls of film shot with a Mamiya 645Pro and a Contax RTS. These are a maximum of five hundred eighty two images to scan, edit and select for presentation. I guess that doesn’t mean much when shooting digital but it’s a hell of a lot using film. Since the moment I touched down back home I’ve been thinking how to sort, condense and write about all the impressions I collected as images as well as thoughts during the sixteen days of my visit to Rajasthan, Agra and Delhi.

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The straight forward approach had seemed to do a couple of chronological blog entries with the places I visited as titles. I decided against it since it doesn’t really help to focus on the quintessence. I visited so many places, met so many people and took so many shots that there is more confusion than clearness in my thoughts. In addition, India’s stark differences don’t make traveling always easy for the stomach as well as one’s patience.

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Here is the plan. I’ll do four blog entries trying to concentrate or even just to find my message:

  1. the first roll – introduction and some the images from the very first roll
  2. the places – two images and two sentences with my personal impression in order of my preference
  3. the people – top ten portraits
  4. the urban and rural life – in the end I’m not sure if there was a difference

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201506_India_MF1_Delta400_Mamiya645_006-Editwalking through churi ajitghar village, Ilford Delta 400, Mamiya 645Pro

I’m in the middle of showing the images of the first roll already. The images were shot on the way from Delhi to Mandawa and in Churi Ajitghar village during the first two days of my visit. It wasn’t easy to shoot the first film as it isn’t easy to start this series of blog entries.

I find my first images rather dull and mediocre, a forced trial to find a way inside. Some images were out of focus and it took some frames getting used to the Mamiya’s waist level finder. I did miss my Hasselblad and the square frame. The gray sky of the first days didn’t encourage to take a lot of photos, either. The weather got better and worse again and somehow I think my photography took the same route.

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During my trip I shot ten medium format and two 35mm rolls of Kodak Portra 160 for the film’s natural color, eight medium format  rolls of Ilford Delta 400 for its versatile ISO range as well as the rich gray, tones, four medium format Rollei RPX100 as my favorite ISO100 film right now, three 35mm rolls of Fomapan 400 and two 35mm rolls Agfa APX100.

I’ll start working now in parallel on the three (maybe four) remaining entries. From here on it’s all about choosing the right images …

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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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Taking pictures at home

My home has all one needs to take pictures: Tables, a sofa, even curious cats.So, I took my Hasselblad 500C/M, an Ilford Delta 400 film and set the meter to ISO 1600 with the plan to develop the film in Spuersinn’s HCDnew. I metered the darkest and and set the camera two stops below the reading. I noted down the brightest spot as well but decided to develop with the nominal time since that seemed average for all shots.

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I’m lucky that the cats didn’t run into this one. They are always around when I take pictures and observe. I’m not sure whether or not they come to conclusions but they are always checking things out. However, they also make good subjects since my cats are relaxed and patient fellows.

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Moving on to the darker hallway, I tried a shot setting the aperture to 2.8. Maybe the shadows aren’t exposed perfectly but there wasn’t much information in there anyway. The painting behind the candle shows a man standing in the middle of the Yellow river. I got it in Beijing in 2004. I met the painter some years later by coincidence discussing a very similar painting on rice paper and oil.

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Ok, living room is next. First Victim: the bookshelf since it can’t move without me moving it. I got the shelf back in Singapore. It served as a divider of living area and kitchen/eating zone in my studio apartment right behind Orchard Road. Now it’s standing against the wall overflowing with books. I store some framed pictures and paintings in the gap between the shelf an the wine fridge. Not sure if I’m going to hang them up one day. It’s kind of the place they belong to now. Sometimes I flip through the frames and get lost in memories. Unfortunately, it’s also a place where all the cat hair collects in big fluffy balls …

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Meet Maxi, the big hairy tomcat of the house. I put him in a bad spot here interrogating the dog. He just walked in the scene I set up and he didn’t do anything. Hahaha. But he really doesn’t like dogs.

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The bedroom has a  bed and a big ass closet which is a mess in spite of the fact that it’s half empty. The bed room door is closed during the day and open at night. When the door is closed, Maya will scratch until the door is open. She doesn’t reason at all. Maxi makes it a sport to get i the bedroom during the day. He sneaks when I go in and out to get some clothes or my kindle. Before I can catch him and kick him out, he hides under the bed and awaits further action.

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