Tag Archives: Vaterstetten

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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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. 

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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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New toys: Bronica C and Rollei RPX 100

The Bronica C was released in 1964 as budget version to the S model. The camera doesn’t have a removable back however features a switch for multiple exposures. The Bronica C has a focal shutter with speeds down to 1/500 of a second. The lenses for the Bronica C, S, S2 and S2a were made by Nikon as 50mm, 75mm, 135mm and 200mm fixed focal length versions. These lenses are incredibly sharp and of excellent built quality. An interesting difference to other 6×6 systems is the focusing: It’s not built in the lens but part of the camera body.The focus ring has a distance scale for all four lenses which can be a bit confusing. However, I will get used to it. The waist level finder is bright and fairly easy to focus. I got the camera on ebay for a decent “buy it now” price and the condition it is in is excellent.

I loaded a roll of Rollei RPX 100 and started shooting right away. The first thing I wanted to try were double exposures. Seeing the resuls, I realize it needs a bit of practice and much more thinking to get interesting double exposures.

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Last year I got some rolls of Rollei RPX 100 and pretty much forgot about them. Recently I read Martin Zimelka’s review about the film and had second thoughts about the film. So I shot a roll and developed it in Rodinal. A dilution of 1+50 seemed reasonable to get a good balance. It turns out that the combination of Rollei RPX 100 and Rodinal is pretty much the sharpest ISO 100 results I’ve seen.

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All summed up, the Bronica C is a cool 6×6 camera that handles pretty well and is able to get very good results. You will certainly not be able to hide with the loud shutter noise that wakes up the death. I will certainly do more stuff witht he Rollei RPX 100. I like what I got developing it in Rodinal and it might become my favorite ISO 100 film. Next step will be trying the 35mm version.

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