Monthly Archives: August 2012

Pride with the George House Trust

Sometimes, as someone who takes the occasional photo or three *ahem*, you get asked to cover something very worthwhile that you just can’t refuse…

Recently, a friend of ours, and fellow Levenshulmite, who works for the George House Trust was asking whether there was anyone who would be willing to take some photos of the GHT participation in the Manchester Pride parade. Sounded like a cracking chance to get some wonderful photos for a very good cause indeed!

If you’ve never heard of the George House Trust, they’re a Manchester based charity with a very clear mission, to provide support to people living with or affected by HIV. So, a very worthwhile cause indeed.

If you would like to find out more about what they do, how to help support them through volunteering or otherwise, or how they can help you, please do go and have a look at their website at http://www.ght.org.uk/

Here’s a quick selection of a few of the photos I took at the parade, hope you like them! The full set can be found here, or through the George House Trust’s Facebook page.

 

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A Voightlander visits the Gower

My late 1920's Voightlander Bessa

My late 1920’s Voightlander Bessa folding camera.

Just a quick post this time, just to say hello after being away for a week or so in South Wales. It’s the first time that any of us had been to the Gower peninsula, and you know what, it’s an absolutely gorgeous part of the world. Stunning scenery, just a shame we couldn’t say the same for the weather. It was, at least, warm all of the time. It was, however, windy and windless and scorching sunshine and cloudy and foggy and light rain and torrential rain and thunder and lightning… So, a typical summer in the good old British Isles…

Anyhow, I took a couple of film cameras with me, the first being a 1920’s Voightlander Bessa folding medium format camera. It takes 6x9cm negatives on medium format 120 roll film and I can honestly say that it’s the most difficult camera that I’ve used so far.

You see the little square bit to the top right of the lens in the picture? That’s the (tiny!) viewfinder… It’s also distance scale focusing (I love distance scale focusing…). Still it is medium format, it’s got a nice 11cm f4.5 Anastigmat Voigtar lens and should in theory be capable of taking 8 very lovely 6×9 pictures per roll. Yes. Eight.

Not much chance to get things wrong then…

Although to be fair, I did get seven well exposed negatives out of eight from the roll of Ilford XP5 (B&W) that I loaded it with, and from the couple that were in focus, you can certainly get some stunning quality from it. It was, however, incredibly difficult to get accurate focus with. The lens takes a full (very stiff) turn to go from 3 feet to infinity focus and at around £2 per picture for develop and scan, when compared with the success rate, it could get rather expensive…

Still here are the 7 shots from it taken over the course of a very lovely week in the Gower. It was wonderful to get away from it all for a little while 🙂

Wood turningThe Gower Heritage CentreThe Mumbles beachThe mumblesPort EynonThe MumblesThe view from the campsite.

 

My Olympus OM10 SLR

My Olympus OM10 SLR

The second camera I took with me was an Olympus OM 10 with a Zuiko Auto-S 50mm f1.8 lens.

The OM10 is a complete contrast to the Voightlander. It’s very simple to use and even has in built metering and manual focus that you can check through the viewfinder. All the mod cons!

This has got to be the easiest film camera I’ve used so far (apart from the no control point and shoots) and is an absolute joy to use. Manual focus is generally quite easy as well due to the large viewfinder and focus confirmation point. So here are a few of the shots from that as well. B&W shots are on Ilford XP2 Super 400 and the colour ones are Kodak Ultramax 400.

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Posted in Blog, Film Photography Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Are two lenses better than one?

My mint condition Seagull 4B-I TLR

My mint condition Seagull 4B-I TLR

Well, as I go on holiday tomorrow down to the Gower Peninsula, I thought that I’d post a very quick blog before I go and soak up some of that lovely south Wales sunshine (I hope!) and leave you to your own devices for a week or so.

Now I’m not one for broad sweeping definitive and ill considered statements, so I thought I’d address a nice simple question, are two lenses better than one?

Specifically, Twin Lens Reflex (TLR) vs. Single Lens Reflex (SLR).

Discuss…

 

So far I’ve put two rolls of film through the Seagull. This camera came to me in mint condition with only one film ever put through it, and that was still in the camera! Apparently, this was bought new in the 1960s and never used, unfortunately, the film that was in it had degraded so much that there were no pictures on it at all, just fog.

I have to say, I’m not sure why it wasn’t used, the viewfinder ( a 6×6 square of ground glass with a magnifier) is beautifully bright, clear and easy to focus with, as long as it’s light. Of course, the first film I shot with this was in the dark, in a club, of several bands… Got some wonderful multiple exposures but this was before I’d found the magnifier, so I wasn’t having a brilliant time focusing… A few examples of that film are below, some shots of Salford band Trojan Horse, one of Rapid Pig, and one from outside the gig of a dude with an awesome afro…

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The second film that I shot was a little more varied and in situations with considerably more light! These shots cam out very sharp indeed in the focused zone, and gorgeously smooth in the fall away to distance. Take a look at the shots below for film number 2…

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So, are two lenses better than one? In short, I really can’t answer that.

The quality of picture is so different from medium format to 35mm film that it kind of renders my observations irrelevant as I’ve never shot a medium format SLR (anyone have a spare?…). The depth of field that you can get when using wide apertures on medium format is so beautifully narrow and the out of focus areas so smooth, the colour that the Portra Pro 160 imparts to the images are all just stunning and not really something I can compare to 35mm or digital in any meaningful way.

At the end of the day, a TLR is just a slightly different way of taking the photos, it seems to be the format that you use that makes the difference, be it digital or analog. Each to their own.

Now, if someone would just give me a Hasselblad or a Bronica, I could start making proper comparisons…

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Zorki 4 and the unfocused ukelele invasion

Another brick of a russian rangefinder, the Zorki 4, complete with a Jupiter 8, 50mm F2 lens.

Another brick of a russian rangefinder, the Zorki 4, complete with a Jupiter 8, 50mm F2 lens.

I may well have mentioned that ebay is a very dangerous place to be in a previous post. Especially when you’ve just got into film cameras and you’re all excited and fresh faced and everthing on there is just SO DAMNED CHEAP!

Ahem.

Aaaaaanyhow… One of my recent purchases (for less than a tenner I hasten to add…) was a Zorki 4. The name itself sounds like something from a different planet, but in reality, it’s a slightly (but only slightly) more polished version of the Fed cameras of the same era and is essentially a Leica copy. Which, knowing the reputation of Leica, is a very good thing indeed!

So, this lovely shiny brick came to the door beatifully packaged in the customary cardboard box and as much bubble wrap as humanly possible. I unwrapped it and it was such a thing of beauty that I had to find an instruction manual on the internet, figure out how to load a film and then shoot some test shots…

This camera handles beautifully. It’s heavy, yes, but the Jupiter 8 has a wonderfully smooth continuous aperture adjustment and the focus is wonderful on it. Again, smooth as… as a very smooth thing at any rate, metaphors seem to have escaped me tonight. The rangefinder, like the Fed 2 was a little off vertically, but after the results from the Fed 2, I wasn’t deterred at all.

So I’d taken a few shots around Levenshulme taking in the local delights such as the bit underneath the tracks at the Levy train station, bits of the Antiques Village, the fence keeping you out of the derelict shop sites on the A6 and some others, when I realised that we were all going to the Levy Uke Up at POD, so I thought that I take a few shots there as well and see what happened.

If you’re wondering what the Uke up is all about, it’s a bunch of very lovely people with very small guitars getting together to play some tunes, sing some songs, drink some beer and eat some food. It makes for a rather lovely way to finish of a Sunday evening and ready you for the week. This was the first one I’d attended, and it would seem that I now need to get my wife (and myself) a ukelele. So it goes…

Finally got the film back from processing and it seems that the rangefinder might be somewhat in need of adjustment. Either that, or I was consistently missing focus by quite some distance, though that isn’t beyond the bounds of possibility by any means. I will be taking the Zorki (and the Fed…) to get properly calibrated at some point soon. I’m still quite chuffed with the photos even if I was a little surprised at the point of focus in some of them… As usual, there’s a few shots below from this roll, with a few more on my Facebook page for good measure, feel free to let me know what you think 🙂

 

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A Retina Re-visited

Tenzing Norgay achieves the summit of Mt. Everest, May 29, 1953. Photograph taken by Edmund Hillary.

Tenzing Norgay achieves the summit of Mt. Everest, May 29, 1953. Photograph taken by Edmund Hillary.

Have you ever seen the somewhat iconic image of Sherpa Tenzing taken by Sir Edmund Hillary on the first successful expedition to the top of Mount Everest? Well just in case you haven’t, here it is reproduced on the right, click the pic for some more info if you’re interested… This photo was taken on a Kodak Retina (model 118) which he apparently picked up at a second hand shop, not knowing a great deal about cameras.

The Retina model 118 is actually quite a rare model with only just over 9000 units ever made. And as it happens, one of those 9000ish cameras was among the 6 camera’s given to me by one of the guys at work.

Considering that one of it’s kind made it all the way to the summit of Mount Everest and still worked should tell you that it’s quite a robust little thing. It’s small and solid with a petite little folding bellows which pops out on it’s own when you press a small button on the bottom of the body. They were made between 1935 and 1936, had a tiny viewfinder and distance scale focusing, so not the easiest of things to use when you’re used to autofocus, or at least a rangefinder at a push…

My Kodak Retina Model 118

A small piece of the 1930’s, my Retina model 118

The Retina series of cameras (model 118 being the second variant…) were also the first cameras to take the modern 135 format cartridge, which of course meant that I could use it, or at least try!

My specimen, however, has quite clearly been well used and I hope, well loved over the course of it’s 76 year life and the shutter wasn’t firing at all speeds, so a trip to a camera repairer and a bit of a wait later, I got it back in perfect working order. The optics were wonderfuly shiny, the shutter fired on all speeds, the aperture was smooth and not sticky and the bellows seemed to be intact. To be fair, that’s about all there is on the camera, so I thought that I’d throw a roll of colour 135 through it and see what happened.

So, below are some of the images from that test roll. it’s actually really quite a good lens, it’s quite contrasty, I assume helped by being an uncoated lens. Unless of course you under-expose (on purpose, of course *cough*) and it’s left to the scanner to bring out the detail, although I even rather like a couple of those.

I’ve not included the ones where I accidentally fired the shutter and the shots aren’t framed at all (it’s a VERY sensitive shutter!). Or the one’s where I’ve quite blatantly forgotten to focus. There were a few of those, it’s very easy to forget when it’s just a very small pointer on the side of the camera you’re generally not looking at…

It turns out that the Retina is still a very useable little compact camera, so it’s definitely not the last roll I’ll put through that one! Anyway, here’s a selection of 16 of the ones I liked from that roll of 24, do feel free to let me know what you think, I rather like them, hope you do too…

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A Russian (Rangefinder) in Canada

Built like a lead brick, my FED 2 rangefinder

Built like a lead brick, my FED 2 rangefinder

So, while we seem to be on the subject of film cameras, one of the cameras I’ve recently acquired (through a very nice gentleman at work, thanks!), is a FED 2 russian rangefinder. It’s a type PE0385, manufactured between 1956 and 1958 with a 50mm f3.5 lens for any of you that might be interested. It’s also built like a brick. Possibly a brick of lead considering how much it weighs. Suffice to say, it’s quite a sturdy little beast…

Out of the several film cameras of various formats that I seem to have gathered together in the past few months, the FED was sturdy enough that I wasn’t afraid of breaking it, easy enough to use that I wouldn’t completely waste the film due to my lack of experience, and simultaneously the first one that came to hand. So I thought that I’d load a roll of black and white (Ilford XP2 Super 400 negative film) and see what I could get around Vancouver.

Bearing in mind that I’d never looked through the viewfinder of a rangefinder camera before, I was in for an interesting time. In case you’ve never used one, basically what you get on looking through the tiny circular viewfinder on the FED 2 is the frame that you’ll shoot, more-or-less, with a small patch of yellowish-green double image in the middle. That’s that rangefinder. Basically, the theory goes that you focus using the lens and you line up the double image so that the images overlap perfectly when that object is in focus.

That’s certainly the theory anyway.

In this case, the horizontal alignment was OK, but there was a good couple of mm mismatch in the vertical alignment, so the images could never perfectly match, they were always a bit out and if what you were trying to focus on was small, that could get somewhat interesting!

Having said all that, I managed to brave the 8°C  rainy weather in the hours that I had when I wasn’t working and shot about 25 frames and then, a couple of exposures before the end of the roll, I somehow managed to snap the film inside the camera… Still, I managed to get it back to the UK, get the people that do my processing to take the film out for me in a dark box, and I’m well chuffed with some of the shots.

They seems to have a good grain to them, but it’s a very sharp lens indeed, the definition and contrast is excellent and the scrape marks where the film has clearly rubbed on something, lend a wonderful vintage analog feel to them. There are a few examples of the shots taken with the FED 2 in the gallery below if you fancied a look through.

Of course, the one thing I probably shouldn’t have done, was located a set of instructions for service and cleaning of the FED 2 on the internet (which I did). Followed by stripping it down to clean it (which I did). Including the rangefinder assembly. Stupid. Me.

I now have a camera which has a beautifully clear rangefinder and is wonderful to look through if, and it’s a big IF, you don’t mind that you can no longer line the double images up either at infinity or elsewhere. So kids, when you need to adjust your rangefinder, take it to someone that knows what they’re doing… So, not me… The Fed will be going in for re-alignment at some point in the future…

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