Canon T50, expired film and negative density

I’ve put off writing this post for a while now, partly because I’m not partial to this camera and partly because the scans were a bit flawed.  This camera was gifted to me by a friend along with a whole lot of Canon FD lenses, most of which were off-brand zooms, but also a pretty nice 35mm f/2.8 wide angle that has gotten a lot of use in the last year, as well as two (!) 50mm f/1.8 lenses (bringing my total up to three).  So, that equipment along with the Canon AE-1 body, 100mm lens and now more zooms than you can shake a browncoat at, I’d say my Canon system is actually pretty far towards completion.

I’m not a fan of the T50 because there isn’t a whole lot of control a photographer can have over it.  It only works in Program mode, which I’m not a huge fan of.  In fact, its one saving grace is that it doesn’t read DX encoding, meaning I have some control over the exposure using the ASA setting (as long as you’re not going outside of ASA25-1600).  In that at least, it has an edge over the Nikon N60.  Using a roll of expired Fujicolor 200 of unknown age that I picked up at a thrift store for 50 cents, I knew I wanted the colors to come out as warm as possible (or at least have the film exposed properly) so I shot this entire roll at ASA25-50.  Sometimes it worked out, sometimes not as much.  (OK, it has more than just Program mode, if you take your lenses off “A” it gives you 1/60, but I didn’t try that too much, as a lot of the roll was taken with the 100mm lens)

One big problem I’m learning with shooting expired film is that even when exposing several stops over box speed, the negative density might be a bit on the thin side.  Talking to my camera store, it seems that’s a pretty big contributing factor in causing scanning lines.  Without my own scanner and a more personalized scan and attention to detail, I think it’s just going to be something I’ll have to live with.  This day, my mom asked me if I wanted to go take pictures of fall leaves with all her peeper friends so I came along, but I made her take her Minolta XG-A and a roll of Ektar.  That roll was pretty fresh and didn’t suffer from any scanning lines.

With all the complaining out of the way, I’ll say that those Canon FD lenses are quite wonderful, nice-looking and very sharp.  The only reason that I don’t use them more often is because I prefer the character of the Pentax Takumar lenses, even with the eccentricities of using the screw-mount system (Canon lenses look much more neutral to me).  I knew I’d end up getting some pretty nice images, and scanning lines aside, I did.  I’ll rescan this roll myself once I have that capability, but for now, I was stuck in Photoshop using the Healing Brush whenever I had the time and got pretty tired of trying to fix the problems.  Here are a few that I’ve got done and I think turned out pretty nicely.

Here’s an example before Photoshop:

I don’t think I talk enough about how nice and how sharp those FD lenses are, but I’d say they do very well indeed.  One of these days I’d like to run a roll or two of Cinestill 50D through my AE-1 and see how that looks, but the T50 I got tired of dealing with and to use up the roll fast I took pictures of several of my other cameras.  Strangely enough, there are no scanning lines on those shots.  Hmmm…

4 thoughts on “Canon T50, expired film and negative density

  1. There are times when easy no-brain shooting is fine, and at those times a camera like the T50 is just right. There aren’t many times like that, but they do happen once in a while. I have a Nikon N60 around here somewhere and I shot it on a road trip last year. I had a great time with it. I’m normally a ’70s SLR kind of guy – let me match needles please, and focus the lens myself. But on the road with the N60, I had a lot of ground to cover and a lot on my mind. I got a whole roll of great shots and didn’t have to think too hard to do it. That was cool. I’d take the N60 on the road again, absolutely.

    Even on expired film, and with what was probably extensive Photoshopping, your photos turned out grand. And they have “that FD lens look,” if that makes any sense. Kind of like you, I prefer the “SMC Pentax-M” look, though.

    • I know you just wrote up about the T70 and honestly I’d rather have something like that. Even with aperture priority sometimes, it feels like I have to second-guess what the camera thinks is right, and actually takes more work than it would be if I were using a manual camera. With the T50 there were a couple times near the end of the day when the light was going, that with the 100mm lens, I had to really think about where to set my ASA because not knowing how the camera would behave, I was just hoping that it wouldn’t have motion blur and still be in focus (the T50 gives you a warning when you’re shooting under 1/50 and nothing else), and then I was worrying about being underexposed.

      I think I would also rather use the N60, because it has the option of aperture priority, though not being able to override the DX encoding can be bad sometimes. In fact, all the more modern cameras have the ability to shoot in full manual mode, but they usually make you jump through hoops to do it. Besides the lack of ASA override and the fact that the autofocus is terrible, the N60 isn’t so bad. When I used the Pentax SF-1, I used my SMC-A 50mm manual prime (that’s a nice thing about Pentax) and since it was Cinestill, wasn’t DX encoded and setting ASA was easy, and I needed to switch whenever I went from indoors to outdoors anyway.

      I guess my biggest problem is that these machines are designed to save the man from having to waste any brainpower (hilarious) on things like that. I don’t think I’d mind so much if they could think better than a man, but I’ve never found that to be true yet, but so many people still let machines do their thinking for them…

  2. Joe , are these scanning lines scratches on the film? I wasn’t happy with commercial processing years ago for scratching my film. I do all my own c41 on a jobo processor myself. Digital Ice will fix most dust and scratches if it is applied. Trying to answer your “Hmmm”

    • The scratches aren’t on the film, that usually has a different look, and isn’t just 2 pixels in width (also I checked to make sure). My thought was probably being coiled near the inside perhaps they caught just a bit less of whatever ages film. It’s anyone’s guess how old that film was, probably not more than 15-20 years, but still, it was a bit of a risk. My thoughts at the time were: “Ooooh, cheap film,” but really it’s not the price of the film that matters as much as what’s captured on it. And that’s how I learned that until I get my own scanner, it’s probably best to stay away from expired and mystery film.

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