Post-CLA roll in the SPII

I used a roll of the AGFAPhoto-branded Fuji Provia, it seems to be what it’s for these days. The Spotmatic is metering well, for the most part!  I noticed that for some reason when I focused the lens one way, it metered one way and when I focused the other direction the meter read overexposed by a stop.  I had Cameraworks tighten a few things up and now it’s not doing this.  These are some of my favorite shots off that roll of film, that are well-exposed (and I feel better now that the lens works properly).

 

…At least the lens did work properly when I originally wrote this…it’s back to its old tricks now, so I guess the 1.8/55 could use a CLA too.

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Trip 35 and color slides

Some of these go back to last fall, when I thought I’d try doing the tourist thing in my own town, but really just by snapping pics when I was supposed to be giving the tour.

I used an expired roll of AGFAPhoto Precisa CT 100 (aka Fuji Provia 100F) giving the Trip 35 the ultimate exposure test and I’m quite pleased that the selenium-powered autoexposure works perfectly fine, even after a period of 40-50 years.  I’m now starting to see that the Trip 35’s lens isn’t the most contrasty ever, especially when the sun sneaks behind the clouds, so I’m happy that I’ll be able to shoot slide film in here.

Armed with that knowledge I took the Trip 35 to Wales with me to shoot a few rolls of Velvia 100 and am very happy with the results (I’ve been posting them for the last few weeks).  The more I use this camera the more I love it.  At $8.00 from a thrift store it was a real bargain too, and one that I’m happy I sprung for.  Perhaps I shouldn’t have been so surprised that it did so well with slide film since that’s what people were shooting back when the camera was being made, but it’s nice to know that after such a period of time it still has what it takes.

Poolside fun with the Weathermatic

The ice and snow finally came last Thursday.  Then it left again, but now it’s back in full force, having somewhere around 6in on the ground up in Divide.  And since I don’t have easy access to a fireplace and glass of scotch at this precise moment, I can at least look back on a warmer time, 2 1/2 months ago.

Ah, the Minolta Weathermatic Dual 35.  I was glad to dig this camera out of the garage and put it back to work!  Staying at my friend’s house while on vacation, most of what we did during the day was hanging out in his pool.  Most everything else we did is captured here.  Again, there aren’t too many outstanding pictures here (and I wasn’t even wearing my glasses when I took any of these).

Those 223 batteries are getting expensive!  I picked a Duracell-made one at Batteries Plus just before I left, cost me $18…should have bought one online a few weeks before, I guess.  At the cost of a new battery every two years, this camera is costing a lot more than I thought it would.  I guess I need to use the camera a bit more here and there (and it does well outside of the pool as well) before the battery runs out by itself.

Knowing that the Weathermatic handles slide film well, I took along a roll of AGFAPhoto Precisa CT 100 (AKA Fuji Provia 100F), as well as a roll of Kodak Gold 200.  The C-41 was scanned at my local shop using the Pakon F235, the Provia was shipped to Mike’s in Boulder and scanned using their Noritsu.  I still have it in my head to gather up all my slide film and do a comparison between the Noritsu, Fuji Frontier used at Mike’s in Colorado Springs, and my own Pakon F335.  Maybe someday…

The Kodak Gold looks pretty good to me, especially when overexposed one stop, looks like lots of detail in the shadows, but I didn’t bother with dodging and burning.  I’ve shot other rolls of Kodak Gold, but they’re still waiting to be developed.  What I’ve seen of Kodak Gold so far made me want to try it out, and I’m glad I did.  I’m still in love with Fuji’s colors though!  At least I remembered to make sure that the lens didn’t have water droplets on it when taking pictures.  I wonder if being in a private pool helped (chemicals, I assume), as last time we were in a lake.  In any event, the water seemed to pour off of its own volition and wasn’t a problem.

If one looks close enough, a little motion blur can be occasionally seen, something I noticed last time I used it as well, and knowing that the camera only shoots at ASA100 and 400, I should have loaded up some 400 speed film in it, but forgot.  Even in bright sunlight, there can be motion blur from me holding the camera, and other times the motion is quite frozen.  I can’t quite say I understand it.  One thing else I found out is that occasionally, the Weathermatic’s exposure isn’t quite spot on, like below.  Of course it had to happen when shooting the Provia:

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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.

Why I Love the Pentax Spotmatic

Back in Spring 2010 I didn’t have any notion of what the good camera brands were, I couldn’t even name but one or two.  I’d grown up using my mom’s Minolta XG-A, but it had been years since I’d used it, and I came out to Colorado with my grandfather’s TKC Kalimar which had seen better days, but since it was manual I ended up learning some things with it.  The first SLR I ever bought though was the Pentax Spotmatic SPII, at a garage sale for a whole $5.00.  What a deal.  It came with the 55mm f/1.8 SMC Takumar lens which, besides being a superb example of mechanical precision, takes more beautiful pictures than anything else I’ve ever seen on this Earth.  When I bought this camera, I knew nothing of Pentax or their pedigree of fine optics; I was just thrilled that it had a built-in light meter.  I used that camera exclusively from 2010 to 2012, and while I did have a brief affair with Minolta during my Intro to Photography class (and Canon as well), Pentax is still my first love.

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Since acquiring a taste for Pentax screw-mount glass, I decided I’d make this my main camera system.  To that effect, I picked up both an ESII and ES bodies, and have added the 135mm f/2.5 Super-Takumar, the 28mm f/3.5 Super-Multi-Coated Takumar, the 50mm f/4 Super-Multi-Coated Macro-Takumar, and the 135mm f/2.8 Auto-Chinon lenses.  Just a couple days ago I picked up two more Super-Takumars, the 50mm f/1.4 and 200mm f/4, plus an original Spotmatic body.  Adding everything up, I’ve paid just a little over $150.00 for my system so far.  Not bad.

01AA020aAn outdated family portrait

The novelty for me when I bought the Spotmatic was the light meter.  It was fun to learn how to use it; Pentax was actually the first company to put a through-the-lens light meter on an SLR camera if I recall.  A manual camera with a light meter is probably the best tool for learning how to expose film properly, and is probably why just about every photography course recommends just this type of camera.  The Spotmatic line was exceptionally well-engineered in this area (not that it wasn’t in others!) because the meter has a bridge circuit that takes only the needed power from the battery, which means that voltage isn’t an issue.  It was designed originally for 1.33v mercury batteries, but works perfectly with the new 1.55v silver-oxide S400PX battery that is available for it today.  Other cameras (like Minolta) didn’t have this bridge circuit, and the different voltage causes their light meters to give faulty readings, which Wein Cell was able to address with their zinc air batteries.  I love that they do what they do and their battery has saved me before, but it’s very short-lived, only 3-4 months.  I’ve had this same Exell silver-oxide battery in my Spotmatic for 4 years now and it still works perfectly.  Score one for Pentax.

I hear so many gripes about stop-down metering, but honestly I don’t find it as annoying as others have.  Perhaps it was just that I didn’t have any other choice or anything to compare it to back in the day, but it hasn’t been much of a problem for me.  Things started getting complicated when all the camera makers went for open-aperture metering, because the M42 mount went from being the Universal Mount to being proprietary for each manufacturer.  All the last-generation lenses from Mamiya, Pentax, Yashica, Ricoh, etc. only work with their own cameras, and God help you if you try to mix and match your brands, you’re likely to have trouble removing a lens.  They require some permanent modifications to be able to fit, with the effect that they no longer allow open-aperture metering afterwards.  I suppose for those that really want open-aperture metering, they pick one brand and stick with that for all their bodies and lenses.  I’d rather be able to pick up just about any M42 lens and use it, which is why the stop-down metering Spotmatic and SPII come in handy.

The ES/ESII bodies offer this capability as well but are just a bit annoying in that way because I have to remember to flip this switch on the side to use stop-down metering or it won’t give the correct shutter speed, and it’s so easy to forget sometimes.

135mm lens taken at 1/60 or below (forgot to stop down the lens on the ESII, and when you don't it doesn't give you the right shutter speed as well as shooting at full aperture)

which is where things like this happen

I’d like to stick with the SMC lenses as much as possible when it comes to those bodies, but I keep finding more non-SMC lenses.  The ES/ESII is quite usable in manual mode as well, for which no stopping down is required to shoot, but metering is a bit more complicated.

One thing I would really have liked to see on one of the Spotmatics is a mirror-lock-up function, but sadly it was never added.  Supposedly there is a way on the ES/ESII which involves pushing the shutter release halfway, but I’ve never gotten it to work on mine.  Something like that might make it just that much better for landscape and macro work, but sadly it was never to be.  I know there are M42-to-Pentax-K adapters, but it would have been nice if Pentax had offered their LX professional camera in M42-mount as well, let us have just one more camera with open-aperture metering and aperture priority…hmmm, I wonder how hard it would be to modify one…

All those little gripes aside, what it really comes down to is that the lenses are nothing short of spectacular, and that’s the reason to use a Spotmatic.  It’s a look I love more than any other, and I’ve had quite a bit of good luck using these lenses and cameras over the years:

Most of my favorite work (and the majority of the above) has been done on one lens: the SMC Takumar 55mm f/1.8.  If I had to shoot with just one lens (and many times I did back in the old days) it would be that one.  I talked in an earlier post about the alchemy between the Takumar and Fuji Superia.  I’m happy to say it also works just as well with Tri-X.  There’s just something magical about those kind of combinations.

Prices on Takumar lenses aren’t exactly cheap at the moment, in fact a lot of manual-focus lenses are being snatched up by people who shoot digital video, so I understand.  On one hand, it’s nice that people are appreciating the quality of old lenses, especially those made by Pentax, but what it really gets down to is that all these people are trying to reconcile themselves to shooting digital any way they can, doing everything except the one thing that will improve their work the most: going back to film.  Not only that, but the prices on these lenses are stupidly overinflated now.  The saddest part for me is going on the Bay and seeing all these wonderful screw-mount camera bodies being sold without lenses; those cameras should be taking pictures, not separated from their lenses and sold as scrap.  I look, but I don’t compete in the rat race myself, I just practice patience, and as the saying goes, “Good things come to he who waits.”  Thankfully, fair prices are still out there, for the moment, if one knows where to look.

While I do prefer the look of the screw-mount Takumars, I’m also a fan of Pentax’s later K-mount lenses, especially the SMC Pentax-A series and so even though they’re not Spotmatics, here’s a recap of pictures I’ve taken with Pentax’s later K-mount cameras and lenses:

Anytime in the 1970s was an awesome time to own a Pentax.

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:
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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…

Rocking out

This is a group I’m a part of at school; they’re a good bunch of kids.  Ostensibly we’re the Visual and Performing Arts Club but so far all our members save one are all musicians from one school ensemble.  I decided that day to forgo the keyboard and represent the visual arts.  Taken back in October with my new (to me) Pentax ESII.  This is the most recent roll of film I’ve shot.

I’m really loving the ESII so far.  It’s a spotmatic with aperture priority, which is awesome, if you happen to have SMC Takumar lenses.  Thankfully I have a few now, but the one non-SMC lens I have is the 135mm Super-Takumar, which is primarily what I shot here.  Thankfully, the ESII also has manual speeds 60-1000 which are good to use with any of the older (or non-Pentax) lenses, or one can use the depth-of-field preview button on the side to stop down the lens, allowing aperture priority of non-SMC lenses.  I forgot a few times to stop the lens down and it led to a few blurry pictures.  In most circumstances it wouldn’t be much of a problem to compose, focus, and then stop down the lens before taking the picture but things were happening too quick for me, if I’m trying to get a particular look or pose it ended up being easier in manual.  I’m just grateful that I have the option!

This was my first roll of Arista Premium film, but since everyone knows it’s re-branded Tri-X there’s really no point calling it anything else.  For less than $3.00 a roll it would be crazy not to pick some up; who cares if it’s about to expire?  Remember, expiration dates for black & white film are more like guidelines than actual rules.  I bought myself a 10-pack in September and you can bet I’ll buy more as soon as I have the funds.

Does anyone else think these scans look just a bit too contrasty?  I do, but since they’re lab-scanned there’s not much I can do about it at the moment.  However, I am finally breaking down (again) and will be buying another film scanner in January.  More on that later…