Ektar 100+Summarit 1.5

My first two rolls through my new (2nd) Canon 7, which I bought to be able to use some nice German-made lenses for Leica cameras.  These lenses are quite old even by my standards: the Leitz 5cm Summarit f/1.5 that I have is a relatively modern copy from 1953, and while it is coated (single coated), the contrast is not nearly what I’m used to with my Pentax lenses (younger by approximately 20 years).  The Summarit also has a reputation for being rather soft, though shooting as much as I could at f/8, I think it’s sharp enough for what I’m doing here (not as sharp as my Takumars though).  I’d still like to pick up a screw-mount collapsible Summicron for landscape pictures, but in a pinch the Summarit does nicely.  I’ve wondered about getting one of the modern Voigtlander lenses (or Lomography’s new Jupiter 3+) for color work, as I wasn’t sure how the low-contrast Leitz lenses from the ’50s and earlier would handle color film, but I was also curious what an ultra-saturated film like Ektar 100 would look like, and here are some of the results.

I need to shoot in the sun more, most of the time I was out it was overcast and that didn’t help much, but also I wonder if they weren’t underexposed a bit too.  I don’t have enough experience with Ektar to say if this is indeed the case, but roll #2 (the last 5 pics) show much improved color to my eyes.  I might just buy a few more rolls and continue testing this film/lens combination at some point.

I processed these pictures the same way I’ve been doing black & white, which is taking PSI output at -30 contrast and adding contrast back in using Photoshop.  I also have the regular PSI output, but prefer the added control.  This film captures quite a lot of information, and as someone who has more experience with black & white, it’s hard to get the color I think this film should have while still retaining detail in highlights/shadows.  But I’m learning.

I’ll probably be going back to black & white next for this camera and lens, but the experiments with color will continue!  I plan to shoot a roll or two of Provia and Velvia through the Canon 7 this Summer, and I hope that I’ll like the results of that, as I’m more used to Fuji’s color than I am to Kodak’s.  And Ferrania is coming soon as well, I hope.  I will say this about Ektar though: it handles different and mixed lighting extremely well!  I shot about half of my 2nd roll indoors and usually under fluorescent lights, and was quite satisfied with the colors even working straight out of PSI; very little tweaking was needed, and it was quite easy (a few examples are here).  Yes it was a bit slow for that purpose, but it has me considering Portra 400 for occasional indoor work now

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Project part 3 – Advanced Photography

I wrote a kind of short but bitter rant reflecting on my critique, I don’t think I’m going to repost it here.  However, I will say that I’m a bit worried about being able to complete the last assignment, which is to make my own photo book on this series.  Time, money, pressure…

These 14 were narrowed down from a collection of ~32 images that I considered using, and the one good thing the photo book will give me is to be able to include some images that perhaps I should have, but couldn’t see their value at the time, or being forced to choose images for the sake of size/length.

On a technical note, I’ve been noticing scan lines on some of these.  I honestly don’t know if it’s the scanner or not, because I’ve been rescanning a few color rolls, and nothing shows up there.  One thing I haven’t tried yet is using another scanner for black & white, or optically printing any (sacrilege of sacrileges, I’ve been digitally printing black & white film images).  Sooner or later I’ll find out what’s going on, but I don’t know which would be worse, disassembling my Pakon scanner and trying to clean the sensor, or finding out that there are strange flaws in my negatives.

How much contrast is too much?

I went to 11-mile Reservoir for a class back in June, and while we were primarily recording nature sounds, the camera had its place in my explorations as well.  Looking at the pictures later with the other members of my group, one made the comment that they were too high contrast, something I didn’t even think about or notice myself.  I think he’s right, but it took me this long to actually correct them.  The thing is, the lower contrast didn’t necessarily improve things…

So what’s the deal, then?  I was alright with what I had before, but there was definitely more detail in the pictures that I wasn’t getting.  Maybe I’m too content, and I need to be more critical, train my eye better.  It’s interesting what the change in contrast does to the colors.  This is the first roll of color negative (and the only one I’ve shot all year) that I’ve put through the Pakon since getting it back in February, and really, just how different the look can be from so small a tweak makes me think of some of the complaints Ken Rockwell has against anything that isn’t Fuji Velvia: I don’t really have a baseline for how any particular image is supposed to look.

How much time are you all putting into your color images?  I’m kind of used to just taking what the photo lab has been given me (unless I’m wandering into dangerous color temperature territory, ahem, Cinestill).  Maybe it’s force of habit, maybe it’s that I don’t find my color work as critical/important as black and white, maybe it’s because there are too many variables I have to deal with now, and I can’t be bothered.  It’s not really a complaint, but more of an observation.  Color changes things.

Hey look: shadow detail!

Alright, I’m learning a bit more about scanning every time I fall down flat on my face.  I rescanned all my negatives from the Fall 2013 Intro class and not only did it take less time to scan, it’s taking way less time to finalize.  I’m guessing I could still dig into TLX Client to pull even more information out of those negatives (and I will at some point), but going back to processed scans with PSI has satisfied me for now.  Basically, all I’m doing at the moment is bumping down the contrast to -20 (more, in some cases), and raising the light on a few just on a case by case basis, then again, final correction in Photoshop.  Like I said, I’m happy and it’s making life easy for me:

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before

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after (and I didn’t even dodge her face!)

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before

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after

So I’m glad I finally got that settled.  Read the first part of this saga here.

What I’ve learned so far living with the Pakon

So I ended taking a bit of a sabbatical the last few months, not my original plan but I’ve been doing a lot of music stuff and not much on the photography front.  I’m here, I’m alive.  In fact, it was my intention to keep shooting black & white over the summer and start developing with my Caffenol recipe at home, but what happened is that I think I got a bit burned out taking pictures for a bit so I took a break.  I just finished my first roll of black & white since the summer started.

What I have been doing though, ever since I got the Pakon, is scanning and adjusting all my negatives from my Fall 2013 Intro to Photography class, just whenever I had some free time to get on the computer.  I’m on roll 9 of 13 right now, and along the way, I’ve noticed a few things.

First of all, I’m losing shadow detail, and I don’t know what to do about it.  Here’s an example:

Michelle
flatbed scan of an optical print

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Pakon scan

FYI the print I had wasn’t my final one, I gave that one away to the subject, and this was one of the outtakes from practicing dodging and burning.  I actually burned her face in a bit in Photoshop to make it look more natural.

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Minolta DiMage Scan F-2400

 

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Pakon F335

Looking at the raw Pakon scan, there’s just nothing there in the side of the piano.  The Minolta scan has its problems, mainly due to the fact that I was quite new to the process and insisted on doing all adjustments in the scanning software itself.  With the Pakon though, for the most part I’ve been taking the raw negative images captured by the scanner and doing all the work myself in Photoshop, and have been pretty happy with the results, but not necessarily wowed.  In fact, going back and comparing some of my earlier work to what I did on the Minolta, the Pakon-scanned pictures can look a little flat sometimes.  It could be that I just don’t know how to use the software that well, I’m not going to rule that out (UCCS does offer a digital photography class, I’ve stayed far away from it so far, now I wonder if that’s such a good idea).

Some of the pictures are looking a bit flat because if I push the contrast too much, I get some rather unfortunate and annoying artifacts, I don’t know really how to describe them.  On the last roll of film I completed, I had given myself the PSI-processed versions as well (I think I adjusted them to -10 contrast or so) for comparison.  PSI tends to make black & white way too contrasty and sometimes unpredictable, but I had lots of shots that I had liked looking that way on this particular roll, so I brought the PSI-processed scans along.  That’s when I learned something pretty wonderful:

From RAW
scanned raw, completed in Photoshop

From PSI
scanned with PSI conversion, final tweaking in Photoshop

 

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The grain seems to be exaggerated in my raw scans, and gradients don’t do too well (look at the top of third of the picture–I’ve been dealing with that a lot), but PSI is doing a better job making these pictures look nice.  I hadn’t been using my earlier scans as a baseline to match what I was doing with the raw Pakon scans, which is probably why I’ve gotten some funky results without knowing.  I went through that entire roll making the raw scans look the best I could, then taking the PSI-processed pictures and making those look the best I could, and PSI won out just about every time.  And that’s with the Pakon not being able to read the DX code on Tri-X.

One thing I haven’t tried doing is seeing if TLXClientDemo will give me a different-looking file at all, I don’t know if that would make a difference at all, but one of these days I’ll research it.  The other thing is that this company is reputed to have the best modern way to convert and process negatives, and have good color profiles for all modern films that came out after Kodak stopped updating Pakon’s software.  I’d like to try out Color Perfect with raw Pakon scans, see if that could make a difference for me, but that’s in the future.  For now, I think I might be starting over with my 2013 negatives, getting the PSI-processed scans and working from those.  Man, that’s a lot of work to redo…

edit: The saga continues (with a happy ending) here.

Scoring Session: The Lady and the Phantom

The Lady and the Phantom is a short film made by the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs Communications dept and scored by my friend and classmate, composer Joshua Aldrich.  A live orchestra was contracted to perform the music, and I am told that this is the first full-scale scoring session of its kind in the Colorado Springs area, which is pretty damn cool if you ask me and I’m proud to have been a part of it.  All the players are local musicians and some are current UCCS students.  The orchestra was conducted by UCCS Prof. Sean Hennessy in a room that I’ve had several classes in myself over the last few semesters.

As a fan of film music it was pretty awesome to be able to take pictures in the room while the orchestra was being recorded, and I definitely had the Scoring Sessions site in the back of my head when I was taking pictures.  It’s different from shooting a rock concert, as I can’t just take pictures whenever the hell I feel like: I was very conscious to make noise only when they were rehearsing a cue or other times when not actually recording, though I did get a few shots in right before they started the count.

If the exposure on these seems to vary wildly from one image to the other, it’s because my camera screwed up big-time, and it’s a miracle any of these images turned out at all.  I’d never used the ESII inside before, now I know not to do it again, there must be something seriously wrong with the meter.  I’m preparing to send the ESII to this guy because I’ve read lots of good reviews of his work and his prices seem to be pretty reasonable.

Though not strictly necessary with the light I had, I pushed these rolls of Tri-X 2 stops which allowed me to comfortably use my 135mm lens somewhere around f/4-5.6 and my other lenses at f/8 or so.  I experimented with a stand development this time, using D-76 1:1 for 13.5 minutes.  I don’t know if that hurt me or preserved what shadow detail was left, but it sure didn’t minimize the grain like I’d read, though I suppose getting correct exposures would help!

The F335 has really made this process speedy for me.  The recording session was 9AM-12, I had the film processed, dried, and in my bag by 2:00, and once I got back up the pass, I had everything scanned into my computer by 4:00.  If the exposures weren’t off so much I could have had them posted that day on Facebook, but as it was I wanted to get the most I possibly could out of improperly exposed negatives, which meant using Photoshop back down at school the next day.  Still, all in all, it took just a day to get everything corrected as much as possible and posted online, when before the Pakon it would have taken a week or more.

edit: To come full circle, I’ll plug the soundtrack as well.

The Pakon F335 scanner

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The scanner saga continues, I have bought another film scanner.  There it sits atop my record collection.  As you can see, I’m a bit pressed for space these days!  What’s really nice is that this above pic of my new scanner was scanned using my new scanner.  That roll and the one from my previous post were the first to go through it.

A year ago I was excited about not having to pay out $5.00 a roll once I got my Minolta, but a combination of dust on the lens (which I still haven’t gotten around to cleaning) and the death of that Windows 98 machine led me back into letting a more professional photo lab do it and when the results are good, they’re good.  I tried using the Epson V600 available at my school, with very underwhelming results.  It seems like I was wasting hours a day trying to get my scans looking the way they should, and the used camera store was getting it right 90% of the time, though 90% isn’t 100%.

In my search for a relatively easy-to-use scanner I came across a few reviews to the Pakon F135+ scanner back in the fall, which was used by many minilabs across America for years.  In fact, that local lab that I’d been going to had one, so I’d already fallen in love with the look. Support these days is nonexistent but there’s a very nice Facebook group to help people out with troubleshooting so I joined that in anticipation, and have been very impressed with the images people have been posting.

There was Company A, that was selling them off on the Bay for $300 so I decided I needed one.  A had a ton of them at one time and offered a 6-month warranty to exchange any unit that did not arrive in good and working condition, so it was too good of deal to pass up.  It being the end of the year I had no money and had to wait until the next round of student loans came through in the middle of January, and I kid you not, 3 days before I got it Company A ran out of scanners.  There was another seller, Company B, out of Florida that had been selling as-is and untested 135s for slightly less than A, and as soon as they knew A had run out they started jacking their prices up.  At one point they were asking almost $1200 for one and they weren’t accepting returns.  Now Company A has more in stock and they ask $750 for them.

While I am a bit miffed at certain sellers taking advantage of a panic to gouge their customers, I suppose they have as much right as anyone else to make a profit, and really, it was the buyers who allowed the prices to go up nearly 400% in the space of a few weeks, by agreeing to pay whatever the asking price was.  I refused to be a part of the rat race, but silently fumed thinking that if only I had had the money together before Christmas.  Anyway, things worked out fine after all, I remembered seeing a dozen of the F335 models selling on a government surplus site that hadn’t sold a month previously (reserve a little too optimistic?) so I bid on a few of those, won two of them, and I paid a hell of a lot less than 135s are going for right now.  I do kind of wish that I had bought more than two, then I could have made some profit myself, but all said and done, with one machine in really nice condition and a backup in the closet, I’m pretty much set for life when it comes to scanning 35mm film.

So, the Pakon: it scans at ~2000dpi so it’s not winning any awards in the resolution specs category, but again, this (the comparison of the dog photo).  I’m just not impressed with the performance of flatbed scanners, or any scanners that are made these days, it seems like scanning technology peaked nearly 10 years ago and then Nikon dropped all film technology, Konica/Minolta went under and was bought by Sony.  Neither Nikon nor Sony seem inclined to make anything that might compete with their digital camera lines.  Back in the “good old days” 5400dpi really did give you just that, these days it seems manufacturers can claim ever-increasing specs with little to back it up but more pixels: nothing is ever any sharper or more detailed.  With an image 3000×2000 or thereabouts that I’ve been getting from my lab, I’ve still been sizing it down to 25% of that size before I post online and that still leaves quite a lot of detail and size (on my 1024×768 CRT monitor at least).  At 3000×2000 I can still print at 8×10 very comfortably and it’s a fine size for digitizing quickly every image.  If I ever wanted to print larger or had something important to show, I’d pay for a better higher-resolution scan somewhere else.

What the Pakon really gives me is my time back.  It scans a whole roll of film in under 3 minutes and if it’s uncut I don’t have to touch it the entire time.  The software was a pain in the ass to set up, true, and only runs on Windows XP machines.  I had to partition the hard drive of my new-old computer before installing the Pakon software, but I just followed the instructions given here and everything went smoothly.  As it is it’ll pay for itself in 120 rolls, but I’ve spoken to friends here and there who would be interested in having some negatives scanned, I’m sure I could make my money back pretty easily by starting a local film scanning service.

I wish I could say to go buy one immediately but this isn’t 2014 anymore.  The price is still nearly triple what it once was, so I wouldn’t recommend that everyone snap one up, but if you’re someone who shoots a lot of 35mm color negative and black & white, and scanning it yourself is getting to be too much, the Pakon F135+ is definitely something you should look into.  Here’s a brief overview on the different models:

F135 max res 1920×1200, 8bits per channel, color negative and black & white (can do 3000×2000 if not using PSI software so I’m told, but you won’t get the automatic color correction, and all my information is 2nd-hand so take it with a grain of salt)
F135+ max res 3000×2000, 8bits per channel, color negative and black & white
F235 max res 3000×2000, 14bits per channel, color negative, color reversal, and black & white, has a halogen light that is prone to failure (all other models use long-lasting LEDs as their light source)
F335 max res 3000×2000, 16bits per channel, color negative, color reversal, and black & white

Of these, only the 135 and 135+ models are readily available, 235s come up every now and then, I’ve only seen the 335 come up once since I started looking so good luck finding one.  And no, I won’t part with mine.  If you’ve come later to the game than even I have, I’m sorry.  The price for a 135+ right now seems to be around the $750 mark, but if people are willing to wait out these high prices they’ll probably fall a bit again.  If you’re still not convinced, there are plenty of other reviews that have cropped up in the last few months:

http://www.dantestella.com/technical/f235plus.html

http://www.stevehuffphoto.com/2014/08/01/kodak-pakon-f-135-plus-film-scanner-review-by-logan-norton/

https://trevor365photo.wordpress.com/2013/12/02/pakon-f135-first-impressions/

http://iftimestoodstill.net/2014/10/13/the-pakon-f135/

https://jcstreetwolf.wordpress.com/2014/12/21/the-kodak-pakon-f135-scanner/

http://baty.net/2015/02/the-kodak-pakon-f-135-plus-scanner/