Sunday, July 31, 2016

A Cool Misfire

I was photographing an editorial fashion shoot last month for a fashion magazine last month.  For giggles, and hey, why not, I shot a roll of 35mm film between look changes for my model.  I was shooting a Canon EOS Elan II with a roll of 100 TMax with a Canon f/2.8 40mm pancake lens.

Because I was shooting in studio I simply used an Elinchrom SkyPort trigger to fire my Elinchrom studio lights.  I metered my lights & set them to get an f/9 aperture with the 100 ASA.  My speed was set at approximately 1/160 of a second in manual mode.  More on this later.

Well on the shot above I actually think is pretty cool.  What's strange is that it looks like a double exposure, but it's actually motion blur before the strobe fired.  Not sure if the strobe fired late, or I bumped the speed way down and the strobe misfired.  Not 100% sure and the rest of the roll came out tack sharp.  

Next time I do a test shoot and the model has maybe 15-30 minutes to kill I might try to replace the effect.  

Anyway I misread the maximum sync speed for the Canon.  It's closer to 1/125 versus 1/160.  As a result on quite a few of the photos I got the dreaded curtain closing black band effect.  I'll SLOW it down next time.

Here's what happens.  

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Loading a Yashica MAT-124G

I went out on Saturday to do a bit of street photography while my wife had a business meeting.  Yes, I know, I have an executive finance day job and even I DON'T have to take Saturday meetings.  So, while she was working I was doing my photography thing.

Decided to do a stop action video with my iPhone of loading my Yashica MAT-124G TLR.  I ran 2 rolls through it.  Super fun.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Nikon N8008 And A Fashion Shoot

I did an editorial photoshoot for a fashion magazine recently.  During the photoshoot I decided to shoot a roll of 35mm film with my Nikon N8008 (F-801 outside of the USA) mounted with a Nikkor 50mm f/1.2 lens between looks.  BTW, the Nikkor 50mm f/1.2 is an awesome manual lens I got from my Dad’s estate, but is still made…and pricey.

The Nikon N8008 is a cool camera that is super simple to use.  It can be set from full manual all the way through full automatic.  This is a perfect camera for beginners who want a film SLR and want full functionality.  A benefit is that they can be found online for less than $50 with lens.  On a Nikon film SLR timeline on Wikipedia under “Nikon SLR cameras” lists it as a late 80’s “high-end” camera. 

I don’t need to go into the specs for the camera because manuals, videos and reviews are readily available online.  Here are a couple:

I shot the N8008 in manual mode, aperture priority and full automatic.  In manual mode I set it just like I do my digital camera.  I used an Elinchrom Skyport trigger and metered my studio lights to f/9 and the film 400 ASA.  Next, I shot a few shots in full daylight in aperture priority and finally several shots outside in full automatic.  Bottomline, all worked perfectly and the camera is easy to set & shoot.  I didn’t use an automatic setting for this shoot, but I have previously and it works super.

Oh yes, one other thing I did on this roll of Fujifilm Superia X-TRA 400, I developed it myself using a C-41 chemistry kit from the Film Photography Podcast store.  This was my first developing attempt and I’m sure this impacted the quality of the images.  Also my scanner isn’t quite up to contemporary standards…so there’s that.

So if you want a solid film SLR that can be used in all modes and easy to use, then take a look at a Nikon N8008. 

A few shots from the shoot.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Developed My First Roll of C41 Film in YEARS

This post isn't about the composition of this photograph taken during a fashion shoot or the camera used, a Nikon N8008, but to say I was able to process the first 2 rolls of color film in YEARS.  I'm talking about the fact I haven't processed film in over 25 years by myself.  

I've been shooting lots of film lately and about 75% is C41 color or B&W that can be processed in C41 chemistry.  Getting it lab processed is easy, but also kind of $$$.  Actually, too much $$$ since I'm doing it for fun.  

Well, about a month ago I took the plunge and purchased a C41 developing kit from the Film Photography Project store.  They said it was going to be easy...OK, we'll see about that.  I purchased a Patterson tank, a squeegee and a thermometer to compliment the kit.  I'll post a full report separately, about the process, but my first 2 rolls was a success.   After I got the chemistry mixed and got organized the actual developing time was less than 15 minutes.

I was shocked at being successful.  This photo was shot on Fujifilm Superia 400 Color.  I still have about 25 rolls to go, so I'm pumped.  I hope my scanner is up to the challenge!!

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Film Camera Buying - Caveat Emptor

Looking to buy a film camera are you?  Want to pick up something groovy on the cheap?  You’re at a flea market, antique store or your local Goodwill and you spot’s right there telling you “buy me, buy me”?

OK, hold on.  It’s easy to find film cameras on the cheap in places like this. Chances are the person selling it has zero knowledge of the camera.  There are the rare exceptions, but this is the classic caveat emptor.  Seriously, take a breath and give it a good going over first.

Film photography is taking off again for many reasons.  Therefore, lots of sellers know this and will jack you on prices and quality.  Or, they have no clue what they have so they price it over the top. Therefore, here are a few tips that I use personally when I shop for film cameras.

I’m a digital shooter professionally, but I still shoot film for giggles.  No, I’m not talking about occasionally. I’ve got a film jones so I’m shooting film all the time.  I’m buying film cameras regularly and have been screwed more than a few times with my purchases.  Thought I would share some of my experiences.  

First, I’m not talking about cameras you buy online or at a high end camera store or about Polaroid cameras.  I’ll talk about those in a different post.  I’m talking about film cameras you can actually touch and feel & where the seller is not a professional camera store. Secondly, I’m not talking to you film photographers that have experience with film types and developing.  You don’t need my advice. OK here goes:

  • Rule # 1 in my book - check the battery compartment.  Most cameras have a battery.  The compartment is easy to find and open.  If there is more than a tiny amount of corrosion in the battery compartment don’t buy it.  Most film cameras - especially newer one require a battery to fully operate.  If the compartment has lots of corrosion the camera is toast or will require cleaning and testing.  Unless it’s a super rare camera or for display only then don’t buy it.
  • Check the price.  Most film cameras are sold online, and it’s easy to check current prices.  I’ve found the online market to be fairly good at pricing cameras.  If you find a camera that is out of the ballpark on price, then don’t bother.  There is no need to overpay.  
  • Determine the film type used in the camera.  You can check this with a simple Google search or through experience.  My recommendation is to stick with 35mm film cameras. If you have experience you can also go with 120 film cameras.  Why?, because 35mm film is still made and readily available.  120 styled film is also still made and available, but you need to go to a specialty or a camera store to buy it.  Unless you have experience I’d recommend you stay away from 110, 127 & 620 film cameras.  The only reason I’m saying this is because of the availability of film and the availability of post processing.  Also, I’d avoid Advantix film.
  • If the camera has a film advance level, give it a try.  This is for an SLR versus a point and shoot.  If it doesn’t advance or is jammed, push the shutter release button.  If the shutter doesn’t fire then the film advance is probably gummed up or jammed.  Wiggle it around and try the shutter release button again.  If “no joy” then put it back.
  • Open the back and look at the interior & film curtain.  If it’s clean and the shutter curtain (if there is one) is in good shape then this is a good sign.  If it’s an SLR hold the camera up to the light, crank the film advance lever and push the shutter release.  The curtain should open, the mirror slide up and you should see the lens opening.  These are all good signs for an SLR.  If it’s a point and shoot, open the back and press the shutter release button.  If there is a battery in the camera or if it’s a very basic point and shoot the shutter should open.  If not, this could be a problem.
  • When you open the back check that it opens and closes completely and smoothly.  If not you may have light leaks.
  • Give the camera a going over looking for cracks / significant damage.  It’s OK if there are scuffs and scratches.  That’s normal for older, well used camera.  It won't’ impact the quality.  However cracks / seams that are open may let light in and ruin your film.  If your camera has significant signs of wear and tear and cracks then it’s probably been abused and I avoid them.
  • If you are getting an SLR with a removable lens then give the lens a good look.  Is it clean?  Is there minimal mold / scratches on the lens?  If it’s clean then you should be good.  Does the focus or zoom ring move smoothly. If the lens is damaged, things don’t move smoothly, the shutter blades gummed or has significant mold inside the glass then you probably want to avoid it.  
  • If you are at an antique store tell the owner than you plan to use the camera versus simply displaying it.  Ask them if they have a return policy if you find the camera doesn’t work.  

If the camera you are looking at passes these basic tests then give it a go.  Don’t fret if you get a dud.  It happens.  Especially with newer cameras that rely more on electronics you really can’t test in field.  Also, if it’s super cheap then what do you have to lose?  I buy cameras from Goodwill regularly and give them a basic field check and they look OK.  Even then I’ll come home and put in a battery only to find it’s a DOA.  Oh well, it happens.

So go out there and get yourself a film camera and add it to your digital arsenal.  You may totally dig it.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Mamiya M645 - A Medium Format Beauty

The next camera up to shoot is my medium format, Mamiya M645 with an 80mm Macro lens.  I've had this camera for about 5 years, but haven't used it much.  Mainly because ... well ... not sure why.  Probably because getting 120 film developed is a bit of a bother unless I soup it myself.  That's a shame because this camera is a work of art.  It reminds me of a piece of American Iron / Muscle Car feel.  Heavy and powerful.

I took the Mamiya out this evening with a 120 roll of Ilford HP4 Plus B&W.  The film is rated at ASA 400.

This camera is all manual with no light meter.  For this shoot I used the "sunny 16" rule and set my camera at 1/500 second and f/11-f/16 when it was sunny (bright) and then adjusted as necessary. Basically, I eye-balled the exposure.

I used my waist level viewfinder for this shoot with the magnifying eyepiece throughout the shoot.  It takes a bit of getting used to because everything is reversed in the viewfinder.  It takes some practice to get used to focusing.  But then when you push the shutter release button, hmmmm, butter.  The slap is like music.

That roll went fast.  Just snapshots around town.  I'll report back when I get the film back from developing.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Is That A Camera In Your Pocket Or Are You Just Happy To See Me

Back in the day, 110 sized film cameras were the bomb.  Everyone had one, and everyone processed the film.  These camera were easy to use, rarely a battery and mostly point & shoots.  The film was self contained with no mess or fuss.

If people still shoot film it's mainly 35mm, 120mm or instant film format.  There are several large format film shooters, but rarely do you find 110 film being used.   That doesn't mean you can't shoot these cute little cameras.  I still do for giggles.  I probably have 5 110 sized cameras.  Lomography produces the film that I'm using, Lomography Tiger 200 Color is actually quite good.  They also produce Orca B&W.  

I found this Keystone Pocket-Matic 101 110 sized camera the other day at Goodwill, and loaded it up.  Just finished the roll tonight and will be sending it to The Darkroom over the weekend to see how it turned out. Should be groovy.  I'll report back.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

An Impulse Buy...Yuck, Yuck...Get It?

Look what I found at Goodwill yesterday.  Its my latest film camera find.  An instant camera at that! This one is a Polaroid Impulse AF.  That's right it's Impulse AS F*CK.  What?? oh sorry, "Auto Focus".

I didn't have this version until yesterday.  The other Impulse cameras I have don't have the auto focus. The camera looks clean, the rollers are good, a fresh but empty pack of film (with a good battery) leads me to believe it will be A-OK.  Now time to run down to my local camera store and get a few packs of Impossible Project Film.  

There are a couple of features that make this camera the potential to be one of my go too instant cameras.  That is of course, if it works.  First there is a standard tripod mount.  Also, a self timer button.  Right on, Polaroid selfies!!  Also if the AF works then it will minimize out of focus photos. When you are paying $25/pack for 8 shots, you don't want out of focus images.  

I'll give this guy a go during my next model shoot.  More to come.

Me Crazy, Nope Not Me - I'm Economical

Do you love the artsy Polaroids?  These are statement pieces, right?  Do they talk to you? Should I draft an artist statement? Nope, I was just playing around.  OK, here's the story.  

I went to my local Goodwill Outlet to look for film cameras like I do once a month or so.  Score, I found a Polaroid OneStep Express.  It looked clean, no cracks, good to go.  A good investment for 50 cents.  I opened the film cartridge door to see if the rollers were clean, and it had film in it.  I closed the door and a photo didn't pop out which told me the battery in the cartridge was dead...hmmm,

I figure why not.  When I got home I grabbed an empty Polaroid 600 film cartridge and went into a dark bathroom.  I extracted all 10 undeveloped photos from the old cartridge by feel in the dark & reloaded them into the fresh cartridge.

I loaded the re-loaded cartridge in a fresh camera and one of the photos popped out!  It worked.  I then went around my yard taking photos.  The results are above.  As expected...seriously, I expected this, all of the film emulsion packs were dried like a desert so the film didn't develop.  Even though the film ejected no emulsions spread across the photo to initiate the development.  This was an actual Polaroid pack of film, so its at least ... maybe 10 years old?  No way it will be any good unless it was cold stored.

Moral of the story boys and girls?  If you plan on buying real Polaroid film online, it probably not going to be good unless you KNOW it's been stored properly & from a reputable source.  Even then the cartridge battery may be dead.   If you have a Polaroid (not talking about Instax here) then do yourself a favor, buy film from the Impossible Project.  It's quirky, but it will be good.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Sometimes You Have To Sweet Talk Your Camera

I've got this super clean looking Nikon film N2020.  Not 100% sure where I got it, but I "think" someone gave it to me.  Anyhoo, as I said it looks clean.  I ran it through it's no film paces and except for a wonky AF motor it looked good to go.

I put a trusty Nikkor 50mm f/2 lens on it, and was ready to rock & roll.  I loaded a roll of Fujifilm 400 Color, closed the back, pushed the release button and the film advance.  So nice.

I started to take a few pictures, and nothing.  I mean nothing.  I played around with the settings, checked the batteries, reseated the batteries, remounted the lens, smacked it a few know, just to show it who's boss.   Nothing.  Oh well, a brick.  Since this is more of an automatic camera there is no way to shoot it without the electronics being up to snuff.  So I put it down and said, scrap heap for you.

Anyway last night I picked it back up and pulled out the film.  No way was I going to waste the full roll.  I closed the back and pushed the shutter release.  It suddenly came alive.  WTH?  I reloaded the film I just took out, and it seems to be working.  OK, this is strange.

I'll let you know if it decides to die on my again, or play nice.  Honestly, I should stick to my digital kit.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Dress the Part - It's a Polaroid Thing

A street photographer friend, Valerie Jardin, sent me a text the other day with a photo of a Polaroid T-shirt she saw in her local Target.  I guess she knew I liked to play with instant cameras, so she sent me the photo.  I was in my office at the time, but I about bolted out of my chair to run to my local Target to get one.   Steve, calm yourself, you're a professional finance executive so such trivial issues don't bother you!!! Uh, sure, right...hey is it 5pm yet??

Anyway, you know the story and so now I'm the proud owner of a Polaroid themed t-shirt.  I've already worn it during a street shoot the other day.  It's super cool.

Canon EOS Elan II - Not That Old, But Still Cool

At my professional finance day job, most of the people that work for me know that I'm super into all forms of photography.  They think it's cute, but I just smile and tell them "now get back to work!!" Yep, that's how I roll.

A couple of weeks ago one of my staff came into my office and my heart skipped a beat...he was carrying a camera.  I quickly gave him my 100% attention.  Well, he had a Canon EOS Elan II that he thought he got in college or high school, he couldn't remember but he wanted to know if I wanted it. He had zero use for it anymore, and couldn't remember the last time he had used it.  Being the contemporary boss that thinks only of his staff, I felt obligated to help a guy out and take it off his hands.

Excluding my digital kit and a few film point & shoots, the Elan is one of my newer film cameras. Also, I only have 1 other Canon SLR, a TX.  It's a good addition.  When he gave it to me he included 2 Vivitar lenses, a 70-210mm f/4.5-5.6 & a Vivitar 28-80mm f/3.5-5.6 macro.  Hey, they were free.

I gave the camera a good going over, put in a new battery and it was super clean and ready to go.  It's less than 15 years old and has been stored properly, so I had no concerns of the quality.  The only issue was the lens.  I wanted a fast prime, so I ran down to Roberts Camera.  Groovy, I picked up a 40mm pancake f/2.8 for less than $75 and I was ready to go.  Oh yes, while I was at Roberts I bought 2 packs of B&W T-Max

I've shot it several times since.  First was a fashion shoot in studio.   I played with it while shooting for a fashion magazine (in digital).  Photos to come.  Next I took it to Chicago and did some street photography with some C-41 B&W film

So far it's worked great, but I expected that.  I won't bore you with the specs because there are lots of resources online.  Just let you know it's crisp and automatic.  It will be one of my go too film cameras when I don't want to play around experimenting.

A few shots from Chicago
The Chicago Bean

The L

Central Camera is the Bomb

Single Bike

The Streets

Buyer Beware

If you've followed this blog you'll know that I enjoy shooting with film as a goof.  So much so that I buy film cameras fairly regularly and run them through their paces.  Where you might ask?  Normally at my local camera store's used section (Roberts Camera), through eBay or at Goodwill.   Except for Roberts who stands by their used equipment buying film cameras elsewhere can be hit and miss.

This past week was more miss than hit.  I purchased 4 cameras through eBay.  The lot was

Lot of 4 x 35mm Cameras - NIKON N2000, Minolta XG1, N4004s AF, N4004

I've purchased cameras before online with no problems, even when they say they weren't tested.  No difference with this lot.  The seller indicated they weren't tested therefore sold "for parts" know, caveat emptor  type of sale.  I'm cool with that because including shipping the lot was less than $30.  I figured if one worked I would be like "HE SCORES".  If there were minor problems I figured I could fix them.

Alas, all 4 of these cameras were complete bricks.   I was really hoping I could get the Minolta going, and even tried some basic surgery.  No was DOA.

The Minolta's film advance lever was jammed (which you'd think the seller could have check and advised....anyway), and I couldn't get it unjammed.  The Nikon's probably had an electronic issue because no matter what I did I couldn't get them jump started.

Honestly, I'm not too troubled because the seller made it clear the cameras were untested, so I took a flier.  Oh well, better luck next time...or stick with Roberts.

Moral?  If you are buying film cameras that are untested you need to plan on a few dudes.  Go into it with that attitude and you will be okey-dokey....