Friday, November 24, 2017

Polaroid Originals - Polaroid is BACK

I’ve been a fan of instant photography for years. When I was a kid I enjoyed using several Polaroid cameras. Fast forward and about 5 years ago I got back into the genre when Impossible Project kicked off their line of instant films.

Although I regularly shot Impossible Project film it was VERY expensive and honestly the quality was just OK and not consistent. Sure, some people thought the lomo look was nice, but I prefer a bit more richness and saturation on the color and more contrast on the B&W. Therefore, I moved over to the Instax line.

With Impossible Project’s acquisition of the Polaroid brand and rebranding Impossible Project as Polaroid Originals came a big POSITIVE change.

The key isn’t simply the rebranding, but the quality and price. The IP film typically cost $23-24/pack before tax. I bought a pack of Polaroid Originals 600 Color for $18.99. Still pricey, but being less than $20/pack is reasonable in my book. Also, from my first experience the quality is better.

I shot my first pack last week in my studio during a model portfolio shoot.  I used a pack of Impossible Project 600 Color side-by-side with a pack of Polaroid Originals.  I used the same camera, a Polaroid OneStep CloseUp and similar lighting.  All photos were taken with the ambient lights in my studio & the camera flash. It’s fairly bright in the studio. The light dark slider was set to the middle on all shot.

Here is my opinion of the side by side quality.

  • Skin tones are more natural. Still a bit on the red/pink side but much better than the IP chemistry (note, this could be influenced by the lights in the studio),
  • Image is sharper. It appears almost as if I sharpened the Polaroid Originals in post editing, but not the IP shot,
  • Colors pop and have more contrast. I noticed this in the reds, yellows & blues,
  • Blacks are richer,
  • Shadows are cleaner,
  • Development time is faster (although to get full quality it still takes a few hours, but within 20+ minutes I had a useable image),

Here are side by side photos:

Impossible Project Color 600

Polaroid Originals Color 600

The quality & developing speed is still not up to Instax quality / speed standards, but I see Instax and Polaroid as 2 different experiences. I honestly don’t use them for the same purpose.

I’m back in.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Kentmere 400 Pushed to 800 - Olympus OM10

I regularly use 100' bulk film to keep my 35mm film cost manageable.  Recently I've gone through several boxes of Ilford HP5+, Ilford XP2, Arista EDU, Kodak TRI-X and now Kentmere 400. 

Harman Labs produces and sells Kentmere films which leads me to believe that Kentmere is a "cheap", lower QC version of HP5+.  Good enough for me to give it a go.

I brought several bulk loaded 36 exposure rolls with me to a street photography afternoon in downtown Louisville. It was a "murky" day.  Bright but extremely hazing and overcast.  No direct sunlight, or shadows.  It was like being in a giant softbox.  I wanted to do general street scenes.

Because it was overcast and I wanted higher speeds I pushed the Kentmere to 800. Ilford HP5+ is very push friendly, so I figured this would be as well.  I had hoped to push the film to 1600 but my camera mysteriously locked up when I set the ASA dial to 1600.

My camera of choice for the street shoot was an Olympus OM10. I purchased this camera at a New York charity shop for $20. Works A-OK (except the weird ASA issue) and is clean.

I shot 3 rolls in this camera. Once home I developed the rolls in Ilford Ilfosol3 for 6.5 minutes. I scanned the negatives with an Epson V800.  Imported them into Adobe Lightroom Classic and used the tool to crop & adjust the histogram only.  

Some results:

Overall, I'm happy with the film. It pushes easily to 800 (will test at 1600). The blacks are black & whites white. The grain at 800 with Ilfosol3 is very manageable and pleasing.  I'll be running a side by side with pushed HP5+ soon, so stay tuned for that.  Bottomline, a good general purpose B&W 35mm film.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Olympus Infinity Jr - A Simple P&S with B&W Film

I like to occasionally use 35mm point & shoot cameras.  Why, because I don't have to think about features. Don't get me wrong, I like full featured or completely manual SLRs, TLRs, medium format cameras as well. It's just sometimes I want to point & shoot.

The Olympus Infinity Jr. is such a camera. I found this camera at a Goodwill some time ago. I finally had an opportunity to shoot a roll of B&W and the results came out OK. I had shot a roll of color previously. Nothing special, but that's what I expected because the color didn't come out anything special either. 

The Infinity Jr. has a fairly sharp 35mm f/3.5 lens. It's somewhat quiet, but there is a noticeable shutter sound. This makes it OK for street photography. It's not quit pocketable, but easily fits in a small bag or purse. There is a sliding lens cover which is nice. Sliding it open turns the camera on. Features are minimal. There is a self timer, DX coding, a flash that can be set to auto, fill & off. A mode function in the back that lets you set the date stamp (although on mine this function doesn't work).

I shot a roll of Freestyle Arista.EDU film around town in both sunlight, overcast & moderate lighting. All the images were a bit soft but perfectible useable. Uses a standard 3v 123A battery.

I probably won't use this camera again since I have many other point & shoots that are sharper, faster & more pocketable. However, if you have one, you shouldn't kick it out of the bed. 

Some photos

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Lomography Sprocket Rocket is Groovy

Ever wanted to do something different with film? Want to shoot sprockets? There are many ways of hacking a medium format camera or several DIY methods to get sprockets. Or, you can go easy and buy a Lomography Sprocket Rocket!

The Sprocket Rocket is a classic "toy" camera that is super simple to use. It's basically a point & shoot camera. Here it is:

There are plenty of technical reviews & how-to-load videos and write-ups so I won't go into this on blog. However, once you get the hang of it (which takes about 10 seconds) it's super easy.  I find the edges of the images are soft and there tends to be vignetting on some images...which is actually very cool and toy camera-like. 

Each image is a panorama exposing the entire piece of film. Therefore, the sprocket holes show up on the picture as black rectangles.  Each image on the negative is just over 3" about equivalent to approximately 2 normal 35mm frames. Therefore, a 24-count roll of 35mm film will give you approximately 12 images. I've found you get less than 1/2 of the number of images because the leader is a bit longer than with a normal 35mm camera.

There is a simple sunny / cloudy switch on the bottom of the lens, 2 distances to focus (0.6-1m & 1m-infinity). There is a switch for N (1/100 second) & B (bulb).  Once you get the hang of using the film advance indicator on top you are good to go. That's it. Like I said, point & shoot.  Oh yes, there is a hotshoe on the camera, but I've never used mine.

I use 100 speed film on bright days and 400 speed film on overcast.  That's the only variable I introduce.  

One tip, if possible develop & scan the film yourself if you have this flexibility.  Just makes things easier. I have NOT sent sprocket film out for developing at a lab, so honestly I don't know how well they do it. I'm sure you need to be very specific with the lab that it's panorama & with sprockets.

So if you've wanted to try sprockets, play with a toy camera, or do something different give a Sprocket Rocket a try.  I bought mine at the NYC Lomography store location while doing a street photography shoot. They cost about $90. They are also available online.

Here are some shots from mine.

Model Madeline with Kodak Portra 160

Red Building with Kodak Ektar 100

Downtown Indianapolis with Kodak Ektar 100

Indiana Corn with Kodak Ektar 100

Model Kristen with Film Ferrania P30

Monday, August 7, 2017

Picking A Film Stock - Decisions, Decisions

A decision has been made!

I jumped back into film photography about 3 years ago after focusing almost exclusively on digital for ... well, since digital took over. I don't recall the exact reason I jumped back in but it now sits comfortably next to my digital photography work. I like to say digital professionally, but film for fun. Today most of my casual photography and probably 75% of my street photography is film. However, 100% of my professional studio work remains digital.

After jumping back in I was shooting just about any film stock I could find.  Didn't matter if it was Kodak, Fujifilm, Ektar, HP5, XP2, super expired, fresh, purchased online, found in a expired film matter, I shot it. I would shoot, send it out - rinse and repeat.

One variable changed over the past year.  I started developing and scanning my own film, so I could lower the cost, increase my flexibility and speed my workflow. I'm starting to take film photography more seriously.

One thing became obvious.  The different film stocks and ages meant I had no consistency or reliability in my work.  Some films fit the mood, some didn't.  Some worked great, some were a disaster. Some curled so bad when drying I couldn't use it, some were flat as glass. One roll had rich colors some were flat.

Therefore, I've decided once I work my way through my current stock I'm limiting my film selection for most of my work.  4 film stocks will be "go to".  My decision is not based on deep study or sound technical review. It may not be a final decision. Many will disagree, but for me it's a start. Here is what I'll use.
  • B&W - Ilford HP5+ 400, rolled from bulk - primarily street photography film
  • B&W - Ilford XP2 Super 400, rolled from bulk - when I want deeper blacks and want to use C-41 chemistry
  • Color - Kodak Portra 400 - everyday use and street photography when color is needed
  • Color - Kodak Ektar 100 - studio work when I use my studio strobes and bright days when I want punchy colors

These are my planned go to films.  I am using all 4 today, but they are mixed in with other stocks.

However, I'll still shoot other film stocks for creative or special uses.  For lower light situations where color is needed I'll use Kodak Portra 800 (box speed or pushed).  Ilford Delta 3200 for B&W low light situations.  When the creative urge kicks in I'll use REVOLOG specialty films, CineStill, and some of the Lomography colored films. 

One note, I'm testing a couple of B&W films, JCH Street Pan 400, Bergger Pancro 400 &Arista EDU. Based on the results I might add it to the list or replace XP2 on the list.

An upside to this decision should be more consistent processing & scanning and more confidence in the end results.  

Let's see if I can stick to this plan, or slip back into my film "look a squirrel" mode that I'm currently enjoying. Time & results will tell!

Monday, May 22, 2017

Nikon FM + Kodak TRI-X Pan Expired 1986

My Dad's last SLR was a Nikon FM.  It's a basic 35mm SLR.  I've used it a few times previously. The camera is heavily used so brassing is considerable.  The film advance lever is a bit sticky and the back film door needs to be jiggled to close properly.  Other than that it works perfecto, but it's been well used.  The light meter is still solid, although I've used Sunny 16 or confirm the settings with an external light meter.

For a recent shoot I used 2 rolls of expired Kodak Tri-X Pan 35mm film. My dad had a 100' roll which expired on 9/1986.  About 1/2 of the roll was left.  I hand rolled the balance in DX coded cartridges.  I previously used 1 roll that was professionally developed.  The photos came out very muted with minimal contrast.

This time I decided to shoot the film +2 stops.  I also used a yellow filter on a 35mm lens.  The goal was use both the increased stops and the filter to increase contrast.  

I photographed the film on a sunny day with lots of natural contrast.  I metered each light change and then added 2 aperture stops.  Several times I took the same shot 2 times and added another stop. Why?  Why not.  

Finally, I developed both rolls immediately using Adox Rodinal mixed 1+25 at 68F for 7 minutes.  

Bottomline, both rolls and all images came out.  I had a few light leaks due to the back door gap, but that's kind of cool.  The 2 added stops greatly improved the contrast on the film.  Next time I might go without the yellow filter to see if the contrast is still solid.  

The main problem is that the grain is almost completely broken down. The grain is highly pixelated in digital terms.  This makes the photos almost unusable if cropped or blown up at all.  I scanned at 1200 DPI, so these are low res.  I might use Ilfosol 3 or Kodak D-76 to develop the 7-8 rolls I have left after I shoot them. 

Bottomline, it's fun to use because of the camera and film's legacy.  However, any other time I'd use contemporary film stock.  Some examples (unedited):

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

35Film120 - My Film Only Instagram

I regularly use Instagram for my studio based portrait & beauty digital photography.  I use StevenBrokaw for this side of Instagram.  However, I shoot lots of film, but I don't put any of this work on my Instagram page.  Except for now!!

I recently launched a second account which is film photography related only.  I've named it 35Film120.  Why this name?  Honestly I couldn't think of anything catchy.  I'm under the impression the audience for film images is different than my studio work.  Therefore, a separate account.

The goal is to use 35Film120 for film photos using all types of cameras...and trust me, I have them plenty.  Although 35 & 120 is my preferred sized film I also shoot 110, 126, 620, Impossible Project. You get the idea.  I also intend to post behind the scenes, etc.  I'll try to include camera type and film stock used on each image.  

Already having fun posting recent photos.  I might occasionally post one from the archive as well!