The Snow in Black & White

I’ve been busy scanning things.  Well, actually the scanning part is easy, it’s the getting things just perfect afterwards that really chews up time.  Unless someone is in a big hurry, I’ve found so far that with black & white and the F335 it’s best to just take the raw files and do all the corrections myself in Photoshop instead of relying on PSI to do it.  Unless they’re really low contrast images PSI will overcompensate, and while it’s feasible to just turn down the contrast right there, I’d rather get my black & white images just right.  And it takes lots of work.

This is Arista Edu.100/Fomapan 100 which I developed myself in the school darkroom (first roll in a year!) using D-76 1:1 developed for (I think) 9min.  I had already bought my Pakon F335 so I waited until it arrived and this was the first roll through the scanner.  edit: I forgot to add, most of these shots are in my local neighborhood, just took them as I walked along one day.  #4 was taken from the Wal-Mart parking lot.

I shot this roll in the Olympus Trip 35, more from the same roll as this.  I have to say, that little camera is quite handy to have, especially in winter.  It’s simple to use, even with gloves on, and it fits quite nicely in a coat pocket.  This is only my first roll through it, but I could already tell it wouldn’t be the last.  It’s got a sharp lens and I don’t think the Fomapan does it justice, I have a feeling this would be a great camera for landscapes with Ektar 100.  With a 40mm f/2.8 lens I would have thought that it would be exclusively an outdoors camera but reading this post has changed my mind a bit.  I suppose that with the right film, you could get away with just about anything.  Cinestill 800T, anyone?

I don’t know what to think about Fomapan.  Its grain isn’t too bad and it has a classic grain structure, but nothing really stands out to me about it, it’s hard to form an opinion one way or another.  With Kentmere 100, even though its grain is huge for an 100-speed film, I at least think that it has a fantastic character and look to it, and would prefer using it to Fomapan 100 for most things, except maybe landscapes like we have here.  I suppose the price being right, it was a good film to try out, and I do have another roll which I plan on putting through something I’m a bit more familiar with like a Spotmatic, but I don’t think it will become a standby for me.  It is however, quite cheap to buy.  One thing I remember reading (after the fact, unfortunately) is that it really should be pulled somewhere under 100, and also the developing times are too aggressive and if overdeveloped the highlights can bunch up quick.  The chart hanging on our wall said 8-10 minutes in D-76 1:1, I really should have gone for 8 (or less) instead of 9, especially with all the snow and overcast skies, but I suppose I’ll know for next time.

The Pakon F335 scanner

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The scanner saga continues, I have bought another film scanner.  There it sits atop my record collection.  As you can see, I’m a bit pressed for space these days!  What’s really nice is that this above pic of my new scanner was scanned using my new scanner.  That roll and the one from my previous post were the first to go through it.

A year ago I was excited about not having to pay out $5.00 a roll once I got my Minolta, but a combination of dust on the lens (which I still haven’t gotten around to cleaning) and the death of that Windows 98 machine led me back into letting a more professional photo lab do it and when the results are good, they’re good.  I tried using the Epson V600 available at my school, with very underwhelming results.  It seems like I was wasting hours a day trying to get my scans looking the way they should, and the used camera store was getting it right 90% of the time, though 90% isn’t 100%.

In my search for a relatively easy-to-use scanner I came across a few reviews to the Pakon F135+ scanner back in the fall, which was used by many minilabs across America for years.  In fact, that local lab that I’d been going to had one, so I’d already fallen in love with the look. Support these days is nonexistent but there’s a very nice Facebook group to help people out with troubleshooting so I joined that in anticipation, and have been very impressed with the images people have been posting.

There was Company A, that was selling them off on the Bay for $300 so I decided I needed one.  A had a ton of them at one time and offered a 6-month warranty to exchange any unit that did not arrive in good and working condition, so it was too good of deal to pass up.  It being the end of the year I had no money and had to wait until the next round of student loans came through in the middle of January, and I kid you not, 3 days before I got it Company A ran out of scanners.  There was another seller, Company B, out of Florida that had been selling as-is and untested 135s for slightly less than A, and as soon as they knew A had run out they started jacking their prices up.  At one point they were asking almost $1200 for one and they weren’t accepting returns.  Now Company A has more in stock and they ask $750 for them.

While I am a bit miffed at certain sellers taking advantage of a panic to gouge their customers, I suppose they have as much right as anyone else to make a profit, and really, it was the buyers who allowed the prices to go up nearly 400% in the space of a few weeks, by agreeing to pay whatever the asking price was.  I refused to be a part of the rat race, but silently fumed thinking that if only I had had the money together before Christmas.  Anyway, things worked out fine after all, I remembered seeing a dozen of the F335 models selling on a government surplus site that hadn’t sold a month previously (reserve a little too optimistic?) so I bid on a few of those, won two of them, and I paid a hell of a lot less than 135s are going for right now.  I do kind of wish that I had bought more than two, then I could have made some profit myself, but all said and done, with one machine in really nice condition and a backup in the closet, I’m pretty much set for life when it comes to scanning 35mm film.

So, the Pakon: it scans at ~2000dpi so it’s not winning any awards in the resolution specs category, but again, this (the comparison of the dog photo).  I’m just not impressed with the performance of flatbed scanners, or any scanners that are made these days, it seems like scanning technology peaked nearly 10 years ago and then Nikon dropped all film technology, Konica/Minolta went under and was bought by Sony.  Neither Nikon nor Sony seem inclined to make anything that might compete with their digital camera lines.  Back in the “good old days” 5400dpi really did give you just that, these days it seems manufacturers can claim ever-increasing specs with little to back it up but more pixels: nothing is ever any sharper or more detailed.  With an image 3000×2000 or thereabouts that I’ve been getting from my lab, I’ve still been sizing it down to 25% of that size before I post online and that still leaves quite a lot of detail and size (on my 1024×768 CRT monitor at least).  At 3000×2000 I can still print at 8×10 very comfortably and it’s a fine size for digitizing quickly every image.  If I ever wanted to print larger or had something important to show, I’d pay for a better higher-resolution scan somewhere else.

What the Pakon really gives me is my time back.  It scans a whole roll of film in under 3 minutes and if it’s uncut I don’t have to touch it the entire time.  The software was a pain in the ass to set up, true, and only runs on Windows XP machines.  I had to partition the hard drive of my new-old computer before installing the Pakon software, but I just followed the instructions given here and everything went smoothly.  As it is it’ll pay for itself in 120 rolls, but I’ve spoken to friends here and there who would be interested in having some negatives scanned, I’m sure I could make my money back pretty easily by starting a local film scanning service.

I wish I could say to go buy one immediately but this isn’t 2014 anymore.  The price is still nearly triple what it once was, so I wouldn’t recommend that everyone snap one up, but if you’re someone who shoots a lot of 35mm color negative and black & white, and scanning it yourself is getting to be too much, the Pakon F135+ is definitely something you should look into.  Here’s a brief overview on the different models:

F135 max res 1920×1200, 8bits per channel, color negative and black & white (can do 3000×2000 if not using PSI software so I’m told, but you won’t get the automatic color correction, and all my information is 2nd-hand so take it with a grain of salt)
F135+ max res 3000×2000, 8bits per channel, color negative and black & white
F235 max res 3000×2000, 14bits per channel, color negative, color reversal, and black & white, has a halogen light that is prone to failure (all other models use long-lasting LEDs as their light source)
F335 max res 3000×2000, 16bits per channel, color negative, color reversal, and black & white

Of these, only the 135 and 135+ models are readily available, 235s come up every now and then, I’ve only seen the 335 come up once since I started looking so good luck finding one.  And no, I won’t part with mine.  If you’ve come later to the game than even I have, I’m sorry.  The price for a 135+ right now seems to be around the $750 mark, but if people are willing to wait out these high prices they’ll probably fall a bit again.  If you’re still not convinced, there are plenty of other reviews that have cropped up in the last few months:

http://www.dantestella.com/technical/f235plus.html

http://www.stevehuffphoto.com/2014/08/01/kodak-pakon-f-135-plus-film-scanner-review-by-logan-norton/

https://trevor365photo.wordpress.com/2013/12/02/pakon-f135-first-impressions/

http://iftimestoodstill.net/2014/10/13/the-pakon-f135/

https://jcstreetwolf.wordpress.com/2014/12/21/the-kodak-pakon-f135-scanner/

http://baty.net/2015/02/the-kodak-pakon-f-135-plus-scanner/

 

This guy

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I never even got his name.  I saw him sitting on the side of the road in a wheelchair with a sign that read “No job.”  I usually ignore those with signs and especially those who will come up and ask you for money (bad experiences), but today, I felt something telling me to make an exception this time.  I bought him some Chinese food, listened to him talk for an hour or so, heard his stories.  He showed me his gunshot wound he received for walking into the wrong alley back when he lived in L.A.  He kept his head down, didn’t look me in the eye much.

He has no legs.  While he lives in a retirement home now, he spent a few winters outside and lost them to frostbite, a year apart.  Now he has throat cancer and was a week away from operating when I spoke to him.  He told me they’ll have to remove part of his jaw.  For the last week that he could, he was planning to smoke and drink as much as possible before he has to stop entirely.  He thought maybe he had run over a witch and now she had cursed him.  I tried to explain that even with only a week left, he could take control of his life at least a little bit by choosing himself when to give up booze and cigarettes, not waiting to let his health circumstances dictate it for him, but I did a bad job of it, don’t think I got my point across.

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I took a few pictures of him on my camera, he took a few of me with his.  Eventually he had to get going, so did I, before the snow caught us both.  It’s Tuesday now, he’ll be up in Denver for his operation, he says he won’t be coming back down this way.  He has a 75% chance to make it through, thinks they’re pretty good odds, and has a feeling he’ll live to be 94.  Whoever this guy is, I’m thinking and praying for him.  If he’s right, then he has a lot of life left to live, and I hope he is able to live it well.

Alternative Processes – Chemograms

Which are sort of a combination of Lumens and Photograms, using darkroom chemicals but done in light, using various substances oozed onto the photo paper.  We did this in available light, not in the darkroom.

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This is maple syrup (well, “pancake syrup”) that I tried to make a smiley face with, but used way too much and it oozed into a gigantic blob.  Submerged in developer halfway before fixing.

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Here we have three strips of Scotch blue tape which I pulled off for fixing.  As you can see, the developer had gotten pretty gross by that point, lots of things between it and the paper.

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This is just paper, I plopped it into the developer for a few seconds and then fixed it.  I think I like this one the best, and it took the least amount of effort, and man, that tray was gross…

Was Arista Premium 400 really a good deal?

Let’s do some math: a 24-exposure roll of Arista cost $2.70 (rounded up 1cent for simplicity).  A 36-exposure roll holds 50% more film than a 24-exposure roll, so multiplying 2.7×1.5 we know that anything less than $4.05 for a 36-exp roll is a better value than 24-exp.  I’m looking at Freestyle Photo’s site right now and one could purchase an in-date 36-exposure roll of Kodak-branded Tri-X for $4.67 (normally listed at $5.49).  While I was writing this (02/08/15) I wanted to look up Arista Premium one more time and it looks like their stock is now depleted, so it’s a bit of a moot point (though I didn’t know that when I started writing).

It’s all speculation, but I’d think Kodak stopped supplying Freestyle with film because it became too hard on business trying to compete against their own product (though it was a popular practice back in the day so I understand–even Ampex used to sell off some of their 632/642 tape stock to Radio Shack who sold it as Realistic Supertape 1800ft/1200ft).  I bought a 10-pack of Arista Premium just last week, but was rethinking it.  Are we really so mercenary that we need to save $0.62 per roll of film, when it might be costing Kodak money it could really use at this juncture?  Freestyle Photo is just a retailer, there are many more out there.  If it came down to making a choice, which is more important to financially support and keep in business, Freestyle or Kodak?

As I said earlier, the point is moot now.

Reload from Last Save

One of the assignments I had to complete for my film scoring class was to take the first movement of Erik Satie’s Gymnopedie and create a video that fits with it.  While I plan on making my own videos in that class on film, this time around I thought I’d kill two birds with one stone by using the format of Ferrania’s “So You Think You’re a Director” contest.  Here it is:

“So you think you’re a director” seems a bit off, I only edited the footage myself.  I made it completely using Final Cut Pro, which is available for free at my school (very nice of them).  I’ve had trouble entering the contest though, I’ve posted the video twice now, a day apart, on Ferrania’s website, and it’s still not there yet.  The contest ends I think tonight so I’ll give it one more go, but I’ve posted here and also on Ferrania’s Facebook site, as well as filling out the contact form on their official website.  I don’t know what else to do to get myself entered now, but I’ve covered all the bases I can think of, and least there is now documentation that I had the video done on time and have tried (unsuccessfully, so far) to enter it.  It’s a bummer when technology gets you down, though considering there are 12 comments on their site, maybe I really have had bad luck with it all trying to make post #13…

edit: My video did finally show up, it just took a while.