Friday, October 31, 2014

Mamiya M645 - Total Medium Format Uberness

My first medium format film camera is right here, the Mamiya M645.  A classic beauty.  Built like a tank & really heavy.  I bought this about 3 years ago on a bit of a flier.  I was about 2 years into my editorial fashion / model photography focus and thought it would be interesting to use film during some of the shoots.  Good excuse?  Not really, but hey, who said photographers always made good purchasing decisions.  Anything can be justified.  Come on, you know it's true.

Anyway, I researched medium format cameras and decided to get something fairly simple and manual.  I'm fluent with lighting, aperture settings and using a light meter so I'm cool with a manual camera.  My search took me to the Mamiya 645 line.  I focused on the basic M645 with a standard pentaprism viewfinder.  No light meter on the M645, unless I switched out the viewfinder.  I bought it on eBay for about $150 including a Mamiya-Sekor 150mm f/3.5 lens.  A standard portrait lens as the effective focal length is about 85mm.  It was a good deal and really clean.  It already had a battery in it with good power.  This is important because the shutter won't fire without a battery.

I wanted a wider angle, standard lens and a hand grip, so during a trip to NYC I stopped by B&H Camera and made my way to their used section.  I purchased an Mamiya-Sekor Macro 80mm f/4 lens and a hand grip.  Dropped another $150+

The Mamiya M645 does not have a film back, but a film insert.  The inserts are available in both 120/220 sizes.  You simply open the hinged back (took me a while to figure out how to get this open), and take out the insert.  You load your film onto the insert (there are plenty of YouTube videos on how to do this, so I'll not bore you here), and put it back in.  When you put the insert back in there is a pleasing, click as it locks in place.  Don't worry, you can't close the back door if the insert is not properly seated.  You then wind the film crank until it reaches #1.  It stops at that point, and you are ready to go.  Once you get the hang of it, loading the Mamiya is easy.  

Simply set the aperture & speed to the desired setting, focus the lens and you are ready to go.  There are 2 shutter release buttons depending how you are using / holding the camera.  One is located on the top of the camera at the front on the right.  This can be triggered with your thumb.  The other is on the front of the camera lower right of the lens.  This is the release that is triggered with my hand grip.  2 shutter release buttons are handy.

Here are some basic specs on the camera:

  • 120/220 medium format, 6 x 4.5 SLR
  • All Mamiya M645 models share similar accessories including finders, screens, grips, lenses, etc.
  • Flash synch tops at a whopping 1/60 of a second (that screwed me up during my first model shoot since I thought it was higher and I was using studio strobes - I didn't know the little red circle on the speed dial is to indicate the max synch speed....oh, now I do)
  • Speed from 8 seconds to 1/500 second, there's also a B mode
  • The shutter locks when there is no film in the camera and as I mentioned above, doesn't work without a battery
  • Takes a 6v PX28 or a 4LR44 battery
  • Red battery test button with a little green light to check the battery strength...very handy.
  • There were several different M645 variants like the Super, 100S, M645J, etc.  The one I have is the first version & the most basic
  • Focal plane shutter
  • No mid-roll change possible because there is not film back with an insert.  You have to finish your roll if you want to change
  • Mirror lockup & multiple exposure possible
  • 2 flash synch terminals: electronic = "x", bulb = "FP"
  • There are multiple viewfinder prisms available including a waist level "sport", metered prism, etc.
Shooting the camera requires a hand held light meter, the Sunny 16, or simply a good working knowledge of light settings.  I've used all 3 with good results.  

I'm really happy with the camera.  I've run about a dozen rolls through it.  All have been Ilford XP2 400 Super.  The results are soft.  I think part of the softness is that I haven't nailed the focus every time.  It is definitely a retro feel to the photos.  By the way, being a medium format the negatives are huge, so a well focused / properly exposed photo can be blown up greatly.  One other thing, when you take this beast out for street photography or a model shoot it definitely gets stares.

Here are a few images (please note, these images were taken from my 1st 2 rolls and were just to test the camera):

Model Wendy in studio with mono-lights,  but speed higher than synch speed
Model Wendy in studio with mono-lights,  but speed higher than synch speed
Abandoned house during an overcast day

Indiana cornfield during the early summer during an overcast day

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Photos I've Taken - Vivitar Series I 500PZ

My primary photo gigs are editorial fashion / model / portrait shoots at M10 Studio in Indianapolis.  Take a look at I shoot these sessions with digital.  

HOWEVER, every once in awhile I'll pull out a film camera and pop off a few BTS shots.  You probably know I do this all the time with Polaroids., For this shot I took of model Lindsay with a Vivitar Series I 500PZ point & shoot using a roll of Kodak BW400CN.  Fun.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Film Is Alive - Film Ferrania

The Italian film production company FILM Ferrania has been "resurrected".  Under the tag line of "100 More Years of Film" they kicked off a Kickstarter crowd funding to get the production up again (the production had been mothballed for several years).  

As you can tell by this blog I still shoot film, and have been aware that film has become niche to the more mainstream digital photography world.  Why, even I use film as a niche, since my main photography life is spent in digital.  However, I still work with film.  Unfortunately, while film is still fairly easy to get the number of types & brands are shrinking and the cost up.  We need more film producers, and FILM Ferrania had a plan to do just that.

I listened to a recent podcast by The Film Photography Project that discussed FILM Ferrania & their Kickstarter project.  The goal was to start production of several film types.  When the podcast was over I quickly pledged to the project.  I was uncertain if the project would get fully funded, but I was hopeful.  Today, I got an email that my credit card had been debited and then saw in my email that it had been MORE than funded.  Outstanding.

So there you go.  First it's The Impossible Project and now FILM Ferrania.  Even though film may be a niche, it's a fun niche and #Filmisalive

Congrats to FILM Ferrania & to the contributors to their campaign.  All film enthusiast are winners.

Time To Get Processing

Looks like I've gotten behind.  I just sent 7 non-C41 rolls off The Darkroom and now I need to take these into Roberts Camera in Indianapolis.  Got myself backlogged.  Yikes

A combination of Fujicolor, Ilford & Kodak films.

Polaroid Goodness Compliments of FujiFilm & The Impossible Project

I did a recent commercial fashion shoot for an Indianapolis fashion boutique called LuckyB Boutique.  Of course I used digital.  However, while doing the shoot I whipped out my Polaroids.  This time I used my newly purchased Polaroid Silver Express (600 film) and a Polaroid ColorPack III Land camera.  For the ColorPack I used a package of FujiFilm FP-1000C & a flashcube.  For the Silver Express I used a pack of The Impossible Project's 600 Color.

It is always fun, and my young models had never seen a ColorPack camera.  Fun

FujiFilm FP-1000C with a GE Flashcube against a white wall

The Impossible Project 600 Color during hair & makeup

Sunday, October 26, 2014

What I'm Shooting - FujiFilm & Kodak

Just finished shooting a roll of Fujifilm Color 400 in FujiFilm Discovery 270 Zoom.   Had a few small issues with the camera, but overall pretty nice.  Blog post after I get the film back.

Next up is a Kodak Cameo Motor EX with a roll of Kodak BW400CN.  This looks like a fun little camera.  Very pocketable, & very few settings.  I'm taking the Cameo with me tomorrow for a commercial fashion shoot for behind the scenes photos.  Should be fun.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

One Alive & One Dead

One of the risks in buying old film cameras is that they don't always work. More often they work perfectly, but sometimes not so much. I have loads of film cameras (all formats) that work fine. however I have a few that are bricks. 

Case in point. I picked up at Goodwill today this super cool looking Polariod Silver Express for a couple $$$.  When I got home I loaded it with an empty instant film cartridge I had saved to test if the rollers & flash worked. They did!

I then tested the same cartridge on a Polaroid OneStep Closeup I bought about 2 weeks ago at Goodwill for less than $1. Nothing happened. Tried another empty cartridge with a strong battery, and the camera is bricked

Good thing I tested it before I put a new / full cartridge in it!!  The risk you take with old cameras. 

Monday, October 20, 2014

What I'm Reading - "Camera Crazy"

I enjoy books on photography including books on cameras.  Ashley, a friend of mine, sent a note that the above book, "Camera Crazy" written by Christopher D. Saylers & Buzz Poole was available at a local bookstore, Indy Reads.  Cool, I bought it.

A fun book with information and picture on loads of cameras and photos taken with the cameras.  Most of the book is dedicated to toy cameras, but there is also sections on instant photography & lomography.  I started reading it tonight.  I'm going to enjoy this one.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Fujifilm Discovery 270 Zoom - Ate My Film

Mean, mean Fujifilm - Ate My First Roll of Film

Another thrift store find was the Fujifilm Discovery 270 Zoom.  Looks like a fun little camera.  However, I loaded it with a roll of Kodak BW400CN as instructed.  I must have loaded it wrong because it immediately rolled the film into the can.  Great, one roll of film trashed.  I wanted to try the camera so I reloaded it with a roll of Fujifilm Superia X-TRA 400.  Lets try this again.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Polaroid Big Shot

I went to the Goodwill Outlet the other day and found this super cool Polaroid Big Shot.  It's a single focal length instant camera.  Only takes 75 ASA film.  It was a dirty and grimy, but it was clean inside.  I bought it for about 25 cents.  Brought it home, cleaned it up and got it looking good.  Also, I also found an unopened box of Sylvania Flash Cubes.  Perfect, they go together.

Film is still made of the camera.  You can use Fujifilm FP-100C which is readily available.

Here's a YouTube video on the camera from The Film Photography Project.  Guess what, I'm going to use this camera during my upcoming model shoot for behind the scenes shots.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Photos I've Taken - Olympus XA Rangefinder

Photo in downtown Indianapolis from the 7th floor of a building.  Photographed with my Olympus XA point & shoot.  I wrote a blog post on this camera earlier.  Very simple to use and very pocketable.  Using a roll of Fujicolor 200.  Bright but overcast day.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Stuck Shutter

I received this really good looking Canon Canonet G-III QL as a freebie last year. It's a very sweet rangefinder.  I ran a few rolls thru it & it's all good. However, just recently the shutter stuck. Unfortunately, I can't get it unstuck. I want to figure out how to get it fixed. I'm checking around. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Photos I've Taken - Pentax IQZoom 130M

Photo with the Pentax IQZoom 130m using Kodak BW400CN film.  A simple point & shoot.  Just walking around the city.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Photos I've Taken - Paris In The Summer

I visited Paris in June for a photography workshop with host Valerie Jardin.  It was great.  A full week of non-stop 24/7 photography.  Not only did I spend most of my time going digital I also brought along my trusty Olympus XA.  Here's an earlier blog post about the XA.

A fun little camera.  Anyway I used both Kodak Portra 400, but also a few rolls of Ilford XP2 Super 400.  A few shots.  All images were scanned to disc instead of printing and then imported into Adobe Lightroom.  I really enjoy doing street photography with digital, during my Paris trip I took a Nikon D600 & a Sony Alpha A6000, but something about film for street photography is just....right.

Paris streets with light leaks

Waiting for a fare

Busy side street

Down a side street

Monday, October 6, 2014

What I Found - Visit to Goodwill Outlet

I went to a Goodwill Outlet close to my office on my way home.  I go there just to look what is available.  Found some cool cameras.  An Olympus Infinity point & shoot, a Sears easi-load 310 & the best a Polaroid Pack Camera 335.  All of the cameras are dirty and rough shape, but I think all can be used.  The Infinity just needs a good cleaning, the Sear's 110 film sized is good, and not sure of the Pack Camera.  It looks OK, but need to clean it up and hack the battery.

Not bad for a couple of bucks all in.

What I'm Shooting - Nikon, Bell+Howell & Pentax

This weekend while out running chores I took a few cameras.   This weekend I brought a Nikon Fun-Touch 6, a Pentax IQZoom 130m & a Bell+Howell.  All are simple point & shoots.  Easy to load & simple to use.  I ran both Fujicolor 200 & Kodak BW400CN film through them.  

A blog post on each camera to follow

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Polaroid OneStep CloseUp

Instant photography is so cool.  Compliments of Fujifilm, The Impossible Project & of course hipsters, instant photography is making a big comeback.  The only problem is that it's kind of expensive.  Not only relative to digital, but just expensive.  

That aside, I have quite a few Polaroid cameras or all types that I've picked up all over.  Recently I broke out a Polaroid OneStep closeup.  I had planned to use it for behind the scenes shots during a recent studio model shoot, but ended up using an Instax.  So, I had gone ahead an loaded it up with a pack of The Impossible Project B&W 600.  I purchased it at Roberts Camera for $25 for 8 shots...yikes.

The OneStep is a very simple Polaroid, just like all are.  The feature with this camera is a slider for normal distance (4ft to infinity) and closer (2-4 feet).  When you slide the slider a plastic "macro" lens slides over the lens.  The only other function is the light / dark slider under the lens.  That's about it.  Load it with some film, point & shoot.  The built in flash will flash if needed.  There is no way to turn the flash off if it fires. 

This is a fun camera and with the Impossible Project film you can grab one from your grandparent's closet or at a flea market and you're good to go.  Enjoy REAL instant photography.

Here's a photo of Tammy the cat sitting outside on our deck.  Shot about 5 feet away with the light / dark slider in the middle.  The flash fired.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Accessories Are Cool

Just like in my digital photography world, I buy accessories for my film camera photography.  Not as much of course, but I still by accessories.  One of the little annoyances with film photography is keeping your film together in your bag & in order.  Having a film case helps.  I bought a D sized battery holder for this purpose and they work fine, but it doesn't hold 120 film.  I shoot both.  Something better was needed.

I was recently watching a video blog post by Eric Kim, an excellent street photographer who I know & visited my studio once.   I follow his blog and podcasts.  He recently posted a video blog about a visit to Bellamy Hunt AKA, the Japan Camera Hunter in Tokyo.  I had heard of TJCH but had never investigated his website in detail. 

Following Eric's  video blog post I visited Bellamy's site and saw he sold both 120 film cases as well as 35mm film cases.   Well, I ordered one each.  Pricing was super reasonable as was the shipping to the USA from Japan.  The 35mm case holds 10 rolls & the 120 holds 5.  They come in a few colors too.  Delivery was quick, and since it really wasn't something I needed immediately a few days wait was no dramas.

They arrived today, and I've already loaded them up.  They will fit nicely in my camera bag, so I'm set.  Honestly, did I REALLY need the film cases...nope, but then I did it anyway.

Here you go

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Kodak Brownie Hawkeye Flash Camera - Really Old School

One of Kodak's famous consumer cameras was the Brownie Hawkeye.  I picked mine up a few years ago at Goodwill Outlet.  It looked rough around the edges, but guess what it works.  The Brownie Hawkeye was introduced in 1949 and produced until 1961.  Mine was made in 1951, so it's older than me.   Mine is a Hawkeye Flash version.  This version took a Kodak pin & screw flash attachment.  

The camera took 620 sized film which is hard to find, but you can roll your own.  Everything I read indicated that you couldn't use 120 sized film.  However, you can cut down the ends of a 120 film roll and get it to fit.  It's tight, but it worked.  I simply used a set of fingernail clippers to clip down the ends.

There are lots of websites on the Hawkeye camera that detail how to use it, how to load it, etc.  I couldn't find much on the actual camera specs.  However, physically, it has a look down viewfinder in-front of the top handle.  The image is reversed in the viewfinder which takes a bit of time to get used to.  It has a rotary shutter, but there is no other camera controls.  The only control was to pull up the grey knob on the opposite side of the shutter release and it converts the camera to bulb mode.  There is no adapter for a tripod, so you need to figure out another method to stabilize the camera during long exposures.  The lens is what's called a meniscus lens.  Here's a link if you want to read what a meniscus lens is.  

The camera produces a large 6x6 cm or 2.25x2.25 in square negative.  Loading the camera is a snap, and there are even instructions on the inside.  Very simple to open, just move the nob that's under the handle and the back pulls off.  Simply load the film, close it back up and you are good to go.  

I've only shot one roll of converted Ilford XP2 Super 400 120 film through it, but it was fun.  You sure get stares when you pull this out.  It's easy to use, no focusing, to aperture, speed, ASA, or anything else to adjust.  Just point & shoot.  Perfect for street photography.

Here is a photo from one of the parks in downtown Indianapolis during a bright but overcast day.  There appears to be an unusual pattern on the images.  Looks like something a pressure plate would create, but it doesn't have a pressure plate.  Still a cool, old school soft look.  It almost looks like it was taken 50 years ago!

So if you want to play with an old camera that's still fairly available and simple to use, get a Hawkeye flash.