This post introduces my newest acquisition, a Sover Wong-serviced black unmetered F2. I don’t feel the need to do an entirely new writeup for a camera that is essentially the same as this one, but I’ve had Johnny Martyr’s words kicking around in my head and wanted to rearticulate a few things here.
I’ve experimented with a few different cameras this past year (and over the course of this photo project), there’s always something exciting about trying a new camera and it’s undeniable that Nikon made some good ones, but when it’s all said and done there’s one that I can trust without reservations, because I know it so well:
Just like with cameras I’ve tried a few different film stocks this year as well and Tri-X is the one to which I always return. My favorite film with my favorite cameras are an unstoppable combination! And while I had a chrome F2, I didn’t have a black one…and it’s just soooooo pretty. I had an argument with a friend recently about why she wouldn’t use a camera just because of how it looks. I don’t agree with her reasoning, but at the same time I will say that this is almost the prettiest camera ever (…almost…). Do I want to use it more because of that? I dunno, maybe–but looking at it and wanting to use it don’t equate to the same thing in my mind. It does make for a nice picture.
Last year I was shooting C-41 almost exclusively, this year I’ve been shooting traditional black & white almost exclusively, and having just about the prettiest girl in the world developing my film has given my visits there over the past few years a certain…something. I’ve done a lot of experimenting but really I know what works for me, and the past 6 months it’s been about getting back to what I know best. I’m not saying that I’ll never experiment again, in fact I continue to do so: things change periodically and my methods of working continue to evolve. But not only are these combinations my One True Love, they represent a Bedrock which can be relied upon again and again–it’s a trust that’s been built over time and one that has never failed.
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
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.
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.
21oz denim jeans from Brave Star Selvage, my indigo invitational competition pair.
With heavy weight denim it will often stand up on its own, especially right after a wash. I was trying to take pictures that would illustrate that, just in the parlor outside my room.
It would also have made a nice joke to play on one of my housemates if anyone had discovered the jeans without me there; it wouldn’t be the first time I heard this place was haunted…