Category Archives: Thoughts and reviews

An adventure in medium format

I began my venture into medium format when I got an old Zeiss Ikonta folder. It was a view finder camera with no way of knowing if you actually hit focus. I shot one roll of film with that camera (actually the first film I developed myself) before selling it and then I bought another Zeiss.
This time an Ikoflex. It had an issue with the shutter. It stuck on certain shutter speeds. So I decided to try to clean it myself. It went quite well, except for the minor detail that I ended up with an oily shutter which I didn’t really notice until I tried shooting in cold weather. The shutter stuck again because of the cold oil and all the shots ended up with a lot of camera shake.

My first Zeiss Ikoflex

By that time, I had decided that even though I could clean the shutter again and get rid of the last traces of oil, I really didn’t like the Camera all that much. The fastest shutter speed was no more than 1/300 sec. and to me that is way too slow for a sunny day with an HP5+ loaded. Other than that, I found the viewfinder too dim for my eyes. So again, I got rid of it and got myself a new twin lens reflex – a Yashica-Mat from 1957. The one with the old and legendary Lumaxar 80mm lens. Awesome camera. Awesome lens. Nice and bright viewfinder and a max. shutter speed of 1/500. If you can find one – buy it! Shot a few rolls though it and had a blast.

Shot with the Yashica-Mat on T-Max 400

So now I though it was time to find a camera with interchangable lenses. I sold the Yashica and found a banged up Zenza Bronica S2a on Ebay. The Japanese 6×6 SLR Hasselblad 1000F knock off with awesome Nikkor lenses available. It has a focal plane shutter with a max speed of 1/1000 – woohoo – even better for bright days and large apertures! The camera has some issues with the focusing screen. On this particular model, it is mounted in a silly way where the light seal also works as a spacer to ensure the correct distance to the mirror in order to have precise focusing. On old cameras, this light seal deteriorates and leaves the focusing screen in the wrong place.
I went to it – replacing the light seal and installing a new, brighter focusing screen with a split prism. I read online that a focusing screen from the Ukranian Kiev cameras would be possible to mount in a Bronica S2a. It was – sort of. The dimensions were not exactly the same but it fit. The thickness of the Kiev screen was not the same as the original Bronica screen, so that required an adjustment of the light seal once again. I tried getting precise focus but was not able to nail it. Nonetheless, I shot a few rolls with it. It went alright but my lack of experience shooting all manual and using an external meter, was really becoming a problem using this large and heavy camera. I managed to get a few good shots through though.

Shot on Fomapan 200 using the Bronica S2a and a Nikkor 200mm lens

I went on a search for a medium format SLR with automatic exposure. I found the Zenza Bronica ETRS. I got rid of the old S2a and got myself an ETRS. Yet another SLR with interchangable lenses. This time a 6×4.5 with leaf shutters built into the lenses. Max speed is 1/500. The automatic exposure prism that is mounted on my camera works perfectly. It gives nice and well balanced exposures every time. The camera is equipped with the optional speed grip which adds a flash hotshoe (NICE) and a film winding lever (double nice). This camera with these accessories mounted is a dream to shoot. It’s easy to manual focus and again, the automatic exposure just nails it. Loving this camera is easy.

Shot with Bronica ETRS on Fomapan 200 film

I started missing other types of medium format. After all, 6×4.5 is the smallest of the 120 film formats. I got my hands on a Mamiya RB67 and brought it to a single shot. It did not match my shooting style at all. Way too bulky and show to use, so I returned it again.

Mamiya RB67 on Fomapan 200 pushed to 800.

I found myself yet again missing a larger format so I picked up an old Soviet Russian 6×9 rangefinder folder – the Moscow 5. Quite a quirky camera to use – but fun. The rangefinder sucks if you have glasses like me, but it’s extremely fun to shoot. Yet again a fully manual camera. By now, my experience had increased quite a lot and shooting all manual with a meter is no longer a problem. Rather a relief from the stress of fast paced shooting like with a DSLR. I love the Moscow 5 and am not about to part with it.

The Moscow 5 produces images like this on Fomapan 200.

Shooting a TLR became appealing to me again. Easy focusing and simple exposure control. So – yet again – I bought a Zeiss Ikoflex. This time a different model – the IIa – with a 1/500 sec shutter. The finder seems a bit brighter too (or did I just get new glasses?). I love shooting it – really. I have had so much fun shooting it, I think this one is a keeper!

Zeiss Ikoflex IIa on Rollei Digibase CN200

The final chapter of my medium format adventure is this. I traded in my Bronica ETRS kit for a Ukranian Kiev 60 kit. The Kiev 60 is a 6×6 SLR in the same design as your standard Canon/Nikon/Olympus/etc. film SLR, rather than the modular Hasselblad like design of the Bronicas. The Kiev is just massively bulkier and could potentially cause serious blunt force trauma, if one is not careful. Why I did this – I wanted a 6×6 with interchangable lenses and I was tired of the little too easy shooting that the ETRS offeres.
At the time of writing, I am still waiting for GLS to drop off my new Kiev at my door step.
Till then – keep calm and shoot film!

And then there was silence – first impression review

I recently got my hands on the photo book “And then there was silence” by renowned Danish photojournalist Jan Grarup. The book is an almost 500 page giant, weighing in at just under 5 kg.

My first impression is that it is an impressive piece of work. It must have taken a lot of coffee and perhaps some tears to get through selecting images for that many pages.

Let’s jump straight to the core of this. The photos. Jan Grarup travels the world’s war zones and disaster areas, documenting human tragedy at its worst. He has a special talent for capturing beauty even in the most grotesque scenes. Unlike the famous photojournalists of the last century, Henri Cartier-Bresson and Robert Cappa, among others, he does not seem preoccupied with capturing the decisive moment. Jan Grarup captures feelings, atmosphere in astounding compositions. One has to wonder, how he manages to use angles, composition and depth of field, almost to perfection in many of the pictures in the book. Some pictures left me with an ambiguous feeling: How can one be totally breathtaken by beauty in images showing absolute horror?
Photographically, it is all that it is built up to be – and more. The title seems to fit perfectly. Flipping through the pages, you are rendered speechless by both the beauty and the horror of the images. An absolutely amazing feeling – even though you are supposed to feel bad after looking though the book.

The book’s psysical appearence seems quite nice from a distance. A large hardback bound in black cloth with white printing. However on closer look, it seems a bit cheap and a little fragile. The cardboard making up the inside of the cover seems a bit soft to me. Thick but soft. And the assembly and binding itself seems like it could have been done tighter.
The paper is a nice quality 150 g, semi glossy type which feels nice and durable to handle. For image printing it is quite okay. It doesn’t make the photos pop, but then again, many of the pictures are large and had to be viewed from a little distance to get the best impression of them. The paper seems perfectly fine for this. The smaller pictures, I feel lose a bit of detail though.

The price for all this is very reasonable. 349 DKK including shipping and a 10% donation to Unicef. That is a very nice price for a book of this size with that many extraordinary photos inside.

In conclution the book is of photographically very high quality but is lacking a bit in the physical department.

Are you interested in photography?

Or just in taking pictures?

Today  that question suddenly popped into my mind. The reason it did, is because I am sometimes struck by the lack of historical and technical knowledge that so-called photography enthusiasts display.
For me, my interest in photography is not at all limited to taking pictures. Of course, actually taking a photograph is the main goal, most of the time. But getting to know the historical background, the development in processes and techniques over the last 200 years and of course knowing about the work of some of the people who have pioneered the craft during the last century is very important too.
Sometimes, I spend a lot more time studying photography than actually doing some myself. I can watch the same documentaries over and over again, discovering new details every time I do. I study old cameras, filmtypes and printing methods till I am blue in the face.
So when I come across enthusiastic “picture takers” and try to talk to them about photography – key persons, history, cameras etc. I am sometimes surprised by the lack of interest in the thing they are actually doing.
Now, I know we cannot all share the same interests, but to me it is still kind of sad to see knowledge not being accumulated but simply thrown away to make room for the next new, fast zoom lens or high ISO sensor.
I am afraid that knowledge about photography will be lost with each coming generation, caring less and less about how we got to where we are now, technologically.

Negative scanning – thoughts

In this day and age, shooting film will most likely include scanning the negatives to use them for print or web. A lot of different scanners are available to do the job. From the cheapest one click scanners to high quality, high priced professional drum scanners.

In this post I will talk a little about my experiences which are, admittedly, limited. This is what I have learned so far.

I currently work with a Reflecta CrystalScan 7200 dedicated 35 mm scanner and before that a Canon Canoscan 9000F mark 2 flatbed scanner.
The Canon promises a resolution of 9600 dpi. But optically it can only deliver about 1700 dpi. The Reflecta promises 7200 dpi but only delivers about 3800 dpi.
Now why the difference in resolution? Well, the 9600 and 7200 dpi describe the precision of the motor, not the scanner optics. The 1700 and 3800 dpi are what the scanners optically can deliver. This number is what you have to look at when you choose a scanner.
The whopping 9600 dpi of the Canoscan 9000F mark 2 are really useless because the optics only deliver 1700 dpi, so even if it sounds great, it’s really not.
The Reflecta delivers 3800 dpi which is fairly good for the price range it is in.

Below, you can see a comparison between the two scanners. Same negative scanned on the Reflecta and the Canon – shown in that order. As you can see there is quite a big difference in sharpness. The Canon is very soft and on the Reflecta, you can make out the grain, quite easily.
Now, to be fair, I have to mention that I used to different programs to do the scans. The Canon scanned using SilverFast SE and the Reflecta using Vuescan. According to various tests, Vuescan is supposed to be the better of the two, producing higher quality results. However, the  difference in quality cannot be blamed on the software entirely. The scanner itself is probably what makes most of the difference.

 

raw0001 copy

This is a full view of the negative for reference – made from the Reflecta scan.
raw0001-blog

Now, I have learned from reading and talking to people, that even if the scanner only optically produces a certain resolution, you should still scan at as high a resolution as possible and then use an image processing program to reduce the size to match the optical resolution of the scanner. The reason for this is that you have to make sure that the scanning motor is working with enough precision to achieve the highest possible optical resolution. Now, how this looks at 100% crop differs from scanner to scanner. The Reflecta produces something like this – as you can see the edge is very pixelated. When you reduce the size to match about 3800 dpi, the pixelation should disappear:

Screen Shot 2016-01-30 at 22.09.25

 

Here is a 100% crop of the image resized to match the Reflecta’s 3800 dpi:raw0001-2 copy

And here is a full view of that image:raw0001-2-blog

I am still quite new to the whole scanning thing and I am certainly still learning. I will be posting about it as I learn more, but for now, I hope this was useful to you.