Back in the saddle – shooting a black unmetered Nikon F2

I recently had to send my baby back to the F2 Master while it was still under warranty, it was developing just a too many faults.  So after a time spent with no thinking whatsoever, it was nice to know that shooting unmetered comes back without a hitch.

It’s all about remembering the muscle memory.

The Nikon F4 used in my photo project work

For some reason I keep hanging heavier and heavier cameras around my neck!  I went from a Pentax Spotmatic to the Nikon F to a few different compact cameras back to the F and then the F2, and now the F4.  In actual use it’s really not that much heavier, and I’ve gotten used to it.  I’ve used three lenses with it, the 28mm f/2.8 AI-s Nikkor, 35mm f/2 AI-s Nikkor, and 85mm f/2 AI Nikkor, the three most modern lenses I own, and I’ve been very happy with the matrix metering so far; there have only been a couple occasions in 5 rolls where the shot I wanted wasn’t exposed properly.  This is one fully-electronic camera that you don’t have to worry about turning on every time you use it, I keep it set to S from the time I take it out in the morning to putting it away at night, and it’s always ready to take fantastic pictures, no drain on the batteries as far as I can tell.

Maybe it’s the updated multicoating of the lenses, maybe the lighting was just better in those few weeks, and maybe I wasn’t necessarily nailing the exposure before, but I’m in love with the look of all of these.  Is this going to supplant my F2s?  No.  The only thing I really have against the Nikon F4 is its bulk and weight but the amount of features you’re getting for that definitely tip the balance in the F4’s favor.  What I will use this camera for is:
-autoexposure-necessary shots: slide film, low-ASA, or any other speed besides 400 with which I’m really not that familiar
-fast-paced shoots where I need a motordrive

First try with Cinestill 400D: peeling back the hype

I’m happy it’s here and that it exists, because during the current color film drought Cinestill 800T has consistently been the one emulsion that was still readily available; 50D sold out every once in a while but at the time of this writing it’s back in stock, as is the new 400D.  I put it to the test on a recent family event, my brother’s graduation from police academy:

But while Cinestill bills this as “400Dynamic,” I have yet to see that it behaves differently than any other daylight-balanced color film.  If you believe the hype then it’s supposed to be kind of like the old Ektachrome 160 type G which was a super 8 emulsion that supposedly could be used indoors and outdoors with equally good results, but from what I read that was also more marketing hype than truth.  I’m not a master of color film, I mostly shoot black & white, and there was quite a lot of playing around with the color balance to get something approaching what everything should have looked like (the last shot is the exception, being taken outside in direct sunlight; it required only a little effort to remove the green cast).  I’m used to some measure of tweaking with the 800T, of course.

before & after, to the best of my abilities

When we peel back Cinestill’s hype, what I can tell about the film is that it isn’t just a straight-up cinema stock that’s been repackaged, because the perforations are the standard we’re used to seeing in 35mm still film, not the Bell&Howell style that you get on motion picture film (like I’ve seen with 800T and 50D in the past, and also Double-X).  I’m guessing this means that Cinestill is big enough that they’re buying a master roll from Kodak and that it’s slit and perforated to their specifications, and probably never had the remjet added so there’s no need to remove it (and their “anti-static lubricant” added).  I don’t think that the emulsion is specifically formulated for them entirely from scratch, there are still characteristics that are unique to Cinestill as opposed to standard still photography emulsions, like the halation effect and the short shelf life.  I’ve never shot Vision3 250D but wouldn’t be surprised to hear that it’s not too far removed from this film stock, whatever tweaking has been done to it.  It ran through my auto-winding Nikon F4 just fine and I didn’t do anything to cover up the little window in the door; I didn’t try to push a heavy framerate at all.

Before the film was released to the general public I ran into a kind and generous Leica shooter who traded me a roll of his 400D for one of my rolls of Ferrania P30 that I’d been carrying around, so I could try it out.  Most of those shots were at work outdoors and it’s readily apparent in the colors:

There was still some tweaking I had to do because it seems that when my Pakon F335 scans this film it has a green cast over everything (greenish-yellow indoors) and I was able to get rid of that much more easily when editing in post.  I still wouldn’t say that they’re perfect but I like the colors much better than what I shot indoors.  The problem however, is that I have no idea how this particular roll of film was stored and you might be able to see that it’s a bit grainier in the shadows.  A good reminder that you want to buy this film fresh, keep it at least refrigerated, and use it promptly.  Cinema stocks are not meant to be hoarded for years and years, they just don’t keep as well.

Expired Kodak BW400CN, Pt.II

These were from early 2022, I was just trying to unload the rest of my stock.

Even shooting at ASA100 I was definitely seeing the grain, maybe I should have given the film an extra stop but I didn’t.  When it’s good it’s really good and it’s really a shame Kodak discontinued this stock; I hope they bring it back but I don’t think I’ll be shooting any more of the expired stuff.

Part One.

Splashes of color/I miss you, Fuji Velvia 100

Post #500, I suppose that should be a milestone!

It’s been all black & white film for a while, time to throw a splash of color into the mix.  These pictures date back to Fall 2020 but I didn’t get them developed until nearly a year later and then forgot about them til recently, as the aspen trees are changing color once again.  I mostly was using the Nikon F shooting Tri-X but brought out the F2A for whatever color film I was using since it was almost always going to be a different ASA and I wanted the meter to do more of my thinking for me.  As it turns out I don’t ever trust the meter and ended up overexposing quite a few of my shots.  These were the most usable.

I miss Fuji Velvia 100, while I do have a propack or two in my freezer but I may never use them.  It’s sad that Fujifilm makes so little film these days though honestly I’m surprised they have any left to sell considering some of my previous predictions.  Considering how the price has kept going up (upwards of $30 for one roll of Velvia 50) it’s likely that they’re just wringing as much as they can from their existing stock.  It’s possible every roll of Fuji that I shoot from here on out will just bemoan Fuji and their treatment of their film customer base over the last decade or so, but really it all was summed up by the last paragraph of this post.  Velvia 100, I miss you.