My mother’s camera: the Minolta XG-A

This is the camera that I grew up using, for as far back as I can remember…considering that it’s older than I am and my dad got it for my mom before they were even married, I suppose that makes sense.  Now, she didn’t use it much, really after 2004 when she got her digital camera; I got her to use it once about 5 years ago and that was it as far as I know.  Just like most people of the earlier generation, they were mystified by the high technology as well as the convenience of DSLRs and never went back to film.  Most of the cameras I use are much older and less complicated/electronic than this one.  Minolta had an entire series of X cameras of which this was the simplified model with aperture priority only; with a full range of manual speeds as well (as the X-700 has) I would find this camera more useful but did bring it out occasionally back when I was shooting the MD mount system back in my early college days.

If you follow my blog regularly you might know that my mother died recently.  For her memorial service and as a tribute to her, I wanted to take pictures and of course take them with her camera.  Also included are some valuable time spent with friends/family before/after the service.

Three rolls of film, in order: Cinestill 800T, Kodak T-Max P3200 (both expired), and Kodak Tri-X pushed to 1600.  There are a lot of photos here that have some technical problems and I don’t know exactly what the problem is because there are too many variables.  I used a 3v lithium battery when I think before it was always alkaline.  Two of the three rolls I shot were expired high speed film that had been in my mom’s freezer for years.  I dropped off the film and expected it to be ready in a week but I guess they ran into staffing problems or something, and had to rush process the film for me, a mistake could have been made there.  And of course it could be that the shutter speeds are off, though usually they tend to get slower with age; of course it could be that the electronics are failing.

What it comes to is that the film all looks underexposed and shadow detail is often lacking, even with overexposing the expired film by one stop.  The better-exposed shots were ones that I took outside or near an open door, which brings up another possibility: that it just doesn’t read dim light correctly.  And of course I’m not sure how much having light sources in the frame might have affected exposure as well. When there is too much light the shutter won’t fire, so there were times I missed shots because of this, going from one part of the church to the other where the light changed too drastically.  After having used shutter priority with the Canon AE-1 I find it much more freeing setting at 1/60 and having the lens stop down as much as needed, it made it easy to set and forget whereas with the aperture priority I was forever worrying about whether the aperture I had it on would make the shutter speed too slow.  It was more an unfounded fear as nearly everything doesn’t show motion blur but I also wanted to give myself as much depth of field as possible because the lens would be focusing in the opposite direction from what I’m used to.  What it boils down to is that I was using a camera that is now unfamiliar to me after having shot Pentax and Nikon for most of the last decade and more.  I don’t know that I will use it much or ever again for that matter but being a family heirloom like my grandfather’s cameras I of course can’t let it go.

Blackburn Reunion 2018, Pt.I

Every couple of years my college buddies get together around Labor Day Weekend to hang out.  This year we stayed at the house of one of our uncles, on Canandaigua Lake in Upstate New York.  I miss this area quite a lot, we spent some time here when I was a boy and it was great to make it back to such a beautiful spot.  There was some hanging around as you can see, board games, lots of meals, generally stuff that we did together when we all lived in Columbus.  Flying into Rochester, NY and staying around the Finger Lakes I of course left all my Fujifilm stocks at home.

The roll of Cinestill 800T was downright ancient, I think I’d had it in my fridge for almost four years and it looks rather grainy.  It’s also the first roll I’d shot in a while and I did shoot it outside now and again, with my orange filter.  That worked better than the first time I tried.  Strangely, I had to work with the indoor shots much more to find an acceptable color temperature (not my strong suit).  I was anticipating some late nights in near-darkness and the T-Max 3200 definitely came through for me there, this is the second roll of the stuff that I’ve shot.  One of my goals was to take a good portrait of each of my friends, though there was some resistance to that.  I got a pretty good shot of most everybody (and they even turned the camera on me once or twice too).  I also tried a cigar for the first time ever and puked my guts out about half an hour later (then it became a true college party); ironic that one of my buddies had mentioned earlier that he never took whisky and cigars together for just that reason, and I had to learn the hard way too…power of suggestion?

The T-Max 3200 was bought last year (in an order from Cinestill).  I think I’m acquiring a bit of a taste for this film: the grain is certainly pronounced (in fact compare it to the last time I pushed Tri-X to 1600), but I love the moodiness that it gives the pictures.  In fact next time we get together I might just keep it all black & white because I’m a bigger fan of that roll of 3200 than anything else I shot.  Then I could roll out the f/1.4 Yellow 50; this time I knew I wanted to shoot some Cinestill 800T so I brought out the 1.8/55 SMC Takumar.

So is the 3200 really any better than pushing Tri-X to 3200?  I honestly don’t know, I’ve only pushed Tri-X to 1600.  I have heard that the results can be a bit unpredictable to go beyond 1600, but then perhaps I should put that to the test myself.  Or maybe look at T-Max 3200 shot at 1600, to compare the grain.  It does look very grainy, more than I would have thought.  Where does the T-grain have its limitations?  The outside night shots here were T-Max 400 shot at 3200; it might not be the most scientific comparison, but I don’t see much difference.

A friend’s wedding

(Actually they’re both friends) It was Summer and dry and hot, definitely a memory I need in these cold months.  My friends wanted some pics taken for their wedding, I was happy to oblige.  There were all the standard pictures that are taken at weddings, though these are my personal favorites.

There were two other photographers so I didn’t have the pressure of getting all the needed shots, I could play around and have some fun.  It gave me an opportunity to test out the re-released T-Max P3200, plus play around with a new point-and-shoot, one of the Olympus Stylus Epic line.  I can’t complain about the camera (at least not too much), because it cost me $3 at the local Goodwill (the battery cost four times that), but I will anyway.

The Olympus Stylus Epic Zoom 80 has all the failings of its ilk: autofocus that can sometimes be inaccurate, a pretty salient and distinctive light leak (or that might be a plus depending on one’s mentality), a flash that must be turned off every time one opens the camera, plus automation in film winding and shutter release that might make one lose a critical shot.  But if you know anything about these cameras you already know all the downsides.  For the price I paid I’d say the camera was worth it.  It’s small enough that I can carry it in a pocket or around my neck everywhere I go, and for that purpose it does what it needs to.  For off-the-cuff shots during a wedding it was a good compliment to an all-manual camera; the zoom lens–though slow–came in handy too.

As for T-Max P3200, the jury is still out for me, but this is only my first roll of the stuff and I’ll admit that I did the film no favors by shooting it in the Colorado sun.  I mostly wanted to look at the grain structure and can see that it will not handle high-contrast scenes as well as Tri-X, but then it’s designed for low-light shooting.  I actually pulled the two shots that show the film to its best advantage, and I don’t think they stand out too much from the Tri-X I also shot.  I fully intend to use this film for shooting inside where it’s dark, so until that I have nothing to say about the film yet.

Good news: Kodak brings back another film

This popped up in my facebook feed this morning.  If you needed further proof that Kodak is confident of the future of film, here it is!

Honestly I’ve never shot this film so I’m glad I’ll get another chance.  Supposedly it’ll be available in March, which means it’ll beat Ektachrome to market. And there’s part of the problem.

Will Kodak actually release it next month?  And where is Ektachrome?  I’m sure it’s a much harder process reformulating E6 films, but I’m getting exasperated having Kodak announce things and still not see anything actually released.  Yet.  Still waiting for the super 8 camera, still waiting for Ektachrome.  Kodak needs to start following through.  I’ll give them a chance but my patience is limited…

edit: They must be really sure of their release date, because all the retailers are accepting preorders!