Olympus 35RC

The Olympus 35RC is a simple rangefinder camera from the 1970’s.  Another recommendation by Ken Rockwell it is a superb picture taker.  Firstly it is compact, fits in my pocket no problem.  Secondly the controls are simple, you can have shutter priority or full manual.  Thirdly it is cheap for a rangefinder, it cost me about £60 as an impulse buy from Philips Cameras in Norwich, but you can pick them up on ebay for less.  Finally it is a rangefinder and gives you a whole new look at photography, slow down, consider your shots and, most importantly, have fun!

It runs off a single LR9 battery (also known as PX625) and I’ve just bought a couple from 7dayshop, which is also where I get all my film. If you’ve ever wanted to find out what rangefinder photography is all about then this is a great, and cheap, way to do it.

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Canon EOS 620 and Ilford HP5

The Canon EOS 620 was the second of Canon’s EOS cameras and came out in about 1987.  I couldn’t afford one then and it was only Ken Rockwell’s article that reminded me of it.  So I kept an eye open.  In the end my wife found one at a car boot sale complete with a 28-80 USM lens and all for £20!

My first reaction is that the camera is pretty straightforward, turn the rotary switch to A to turn it on, select your mode with the MODE switch and the rotary dial and start firing away. The only slight funny is the need to press the M button on the left side of the lens mount (as you hold it up to your eye) to set the dial to select aperture in manual mode. Other than that it’s a nice solid camera.

So I dropped in a roll of Ilford HP5 and had a play.  HP5 appears to have slightly finer grain than Kodak Tri-X 400.  I guess you need to try both and see how you get on!

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Agfa Clack and Ilford PanF Film

The Agfa Clack was made in Germany in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s.  It gives eight 6×9 shots on a roll of 120 film and was really designed as a snap camera.  The lens is so simple the image is focused onto a curve rather than a flat film plane as with most film cameras, hence the curved back of the camera.

I bought this one on eBay some time ago for just under £20.  It has three exposure settings: bright, cloudy and close up and was originally designed for ISO 50 film.  So I popped in a roll of Ilford PanF, which I have never used before,  and gave it a whirl.

The shots are a bit soft, hardly surprising with such a simple lens.  Also, I believe the camera has a slow shutter speed, about 1/30 of a second, so this may have contributed some camera blur.  Still, probably fine for 1950’s contact prints.

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Kodak TRI-X

So after all these years I finally got around to trying a roll of TRI-X.  This Kodak film has a long and distinguished history, especially amongst photojournalists.

I loaded it in my Canon EOS 30 film camera and played around.  Once I was done I developed it for 6 minutes @ 23C in Kodak D76 stock solution.  Once dry the negs were scanned in on my Epson 3170 flatbed scanner.  Minimal post-processing, as I’ve said below, it’s not my thing.

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I’ve put them up as a slideshow, see how that comes out!  Anyway the upshot is I really liked the film although it’s better in medium light than strong light.  Although I suspect that is true for everything!

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Film descriptions

Here are some descriptions on the films in my fridge, from left to right in the photo below.

Kodak Portra 160 NC – this is a medium speed (ISO 160) colour print film which has neutral colours (NC).  This and the Portra name means it is best for skin tones, so wedding photographers use it a lot.  If you use saturated colours at a wedding people’s faces can look overly red and wedding dresses tend to bleach out, which can result in a loss of detail.  A neutral film is muted ans so gives produces more faithful colours.

Fuji Velvia 50 – this is a slow speed (ISO 50) very fine grain slide film with strong, saturated colours.  It is the professionals choice for landscape photography.  If you have an old slide projector, or even a light box somewhere then treat yourself to a roll.

Kodak TMAX 100 – this is also a modern fine grain, medium speed (ISO 100) black and white film.  I have some great enlargements from this film, it’s one of my favourites.  One to develop yourself.

Fuji Reala 160s – another professional colour portrait film, this is Fuji’s equivalent of Kodak Portra NC.

Ilford XP2 – a high speed (ISO 400) chromogenic black and white print film.  Chromogenic means that this film can be developed in colour chemicals, so just take a 35 mm roll to your local lab, pay the normal colour price and get 36 black and white prints.  Easy!

Ilford FP4 this is a traditional fine grain, medium speed (ISO 125)  film that is a great place to start if you want to try and develop your own black and white film.

Ilford PanF – this is a very fine grain slow speed (ISO 50) film that I’ve never tried before.  I plan to put it into a 1950’s era Agfa medium format camera I’ve got.  I’ll develop it myself.

Kodak Tri-X – this is a fast film (ISO 400) that is a favourite among some professional photographers because of its grain.  I’ve never tried it before, but I have a 35 mm roll in my camera now.  Again, I’ll develop this myself.

Fuji Neopan Acros 100 – another fine grain medium speed (ISO 100) film but this time from Fuji.  Never tried it before.

Kodak BW400CN – a high speed (ISO 400) chromogenic film that can also be developed in colour chemicals.  Kodak’s alternative to Ilford XP2.

So there we are, loads of different films to try, and I only have a fraction of what is available.  Choose depending on ISO, whether you want colour or black and white, prints or slides, develop yourself or not.  It’s like having a choice of dozens of different sensors in your digital camera 🙂

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The film in my fridge

The film in my fridge

So the first question is why do I keep my film in the fridge?  Well, film has a best before date printed on the side and keeping it in the fridge means you can go years beyond that date and the film should still be fine.

There are three film formats:

Large Format – The big white box of Ilford FP4 film is 5″x4″ large format film.  Large format cameras look like cameras did in the early 1900’s, with a cloth to go over your head.  They are very slow to use but are still used by some professionals (and crazy amateurs) as the negative they use is 5″x4″ in size and so can be enlarged to poster size without any visible loss of quality.  You can even buy film that is 10″x8″ in size if you are very keen / crazy.

Medium Format – this is 120 roll film and goes in cameras like Hasselblads and my Yaschica Mat 124.  I get 12 shots per roll and the negatives are about 6 cm x 6 cm in size.  These are faster to use than large format cameras but still give excellent image quality.

35 mm – this is the most common film format and the smallest here.  It is a very versatile format and goes into film cameras  like Canons and Nikons.  There are loads of different makes of 35 mm film to choose from.

Then there are three major types of film:

Black and White – otherwise known as monochrome this leads, unsurprisingly, to black and white negatives from which you get black and white prints.  You normally need to buy chemicals and develop these at home although some specialist labs will do them for a price.  However there are some chromogenic films which can be developed in a colour lab but still give black and white prints, sometimes with a sepia tint.

Colour Slide – otherwise known as transparencies these are positive films.  That means that when you hold them up to the light all the colours are correct, whereas with a negative they are all inverted.  These have to be developed in specialist labs.

Colour Print – the most common type of film, used mostly for snapshots and family photos.  Get them developed in a normal lab where you get a load of colour negatives and corresponding colour prints.

So why use transparencies when colour print film is so easy to get hold, is easy to develop and you get prints?  It all comes down to quality.  Normal labs can change exposure and colour levels when they do colour prints which can lead to inconsistent results and washed out colours.  You cannot so this with transparencies so they are more consistent.  This counts for a lot if you are a professional, so most pros will use colour transparency film rather than colour print film.  Transparency film is also much more stable over time, so in twenty years time they should still be as god as new.  so if you’ve never tried a roll of slide film I suggest you do.

That’s enough for today, I’ll go over each individual film tomorrow to explain why I have so many to choose from and hopefully give you some idea as to which ones to try yourself.

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Four types of photo

I’ve taken lots of photos of lots of things and I’m always looking for some sort of emotional response when I see a photo or when I show someone a photo I’ve taken. I have realised that pretty much all photos fall into one of four types, categorised by the content and the emotional response they produce.

Scenic shots aim to be contemplative and artistic in the traditional, figurative sense. Photos that fit this category are landscapes and waterfalls, as well as close ups of flowers.

Action shots aim to astonish and amaze. Sports and moving wildlife shots are the main examples but gritty photojournalism that brings the harsh reality of the wider world into your living room also fit here.

For me this is the most obscure category and is reminiscent of more modern art. Abstracts are not photos taken for the overall sake of a subject, rather some aspect of the subject that has artistic impact. A shot of a metal staircase with flaking paint becomes a study in lines and texture; a shot of a set of snooker balls becomes a study in colour.

This is arguably the most common type of shot that most people use a camera for; capturing our lives and the lives of our loved ones, the people we meet and the places we’ve been to. Memory photos have the strongest hold over our emotions and for me are the most important type of shot. The main aim of my photography has always been to document the lives of the people closest to me, so that their lives are recorded for posterity. I have always wanted to be able to walk into my friends’ houses and see my photos on the wall and quite a lot of the time I can do just that.

Much as I like taking photos of people I always find it hard to find people who want their photos taken, although I do keep trying! However, I also want this blog to inspire me to try harder at all the types of photo I’ve mentioned as they all have something to offer both creatively and photographically.

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