Recommended reading

On Saturday, I round up the blog posts I liked most from around the Internet all week.

💻 Om Malik writes a useful essay about the juxtaposition between big tech companies that might not have your best interest at heart with how much more convenient big tech has made our lives. Read Big Tech & people: a complicated relationship of convenience

Kodak Retinette II, Agfa Vista 200, 2019.

💻 Most movies are shot at 24 frames per second (fps). That’s a holdover from the old days of film. In this digital era filmmakers can shoot at whatever frame rate their hardware supports. The movie Gemini Man was shot at a whopping 120 fps. Film nerd John Scalzi tells us whether this was worth the trouble or not. Read Thoughts on Gemini Man, and its High Frame Rate

💻 A beer brewer has figured out how to make bottles out of paper. This has caused Nick Gerlich to consider the environmental impact of beer packaging. Read Walking On Glass

💻 Maria Popova found a 1933 copy of Edgar Allen Poe’s book Tales of Mystery and Imagination with some outstanding illustrations that you’ve just got to see. Read Tales of Mystery and Imagination: Rare, Arresting Illustrations for Edgar Allan Poe’s Short Stories by the Irish Stained Glass and Book Artist Harry Clarke

📷 If you’re curious about the Purple film from Lomography, Kathleen Johnson has some advice for you about how to make the most of it. Read Lomo Purple Revisited: Lessons Learned Part II

📷 Shaun Nelson shares his experience with the Camerhack FCK127, a light-tight device that cuts 120 film to 127 size and spools it onto a 127 spool. He then puts a roll so cut into his Kodak Baby Brownie and takes it for a spin. Read 127 Film & The Kodak Baby Brownie

📷 Most SLRs have focal-plane shutters, a big, flat curtain that slides horizontally or vertically to expose the film. A few have traditional leaf shutters. Mike Eckman considers the special challenges of designing leaf-shutter SLRs and how manufacturers handled them. Read Keppler’s Vault 48: Leaf Shutter Reflex

Film Photography

Greater success developing black-and-white film at home

I’ve had my most successful go yet at developing black-and-white film at home.

I had trouble getting the Kodak T-Max 100 onto the reel, though. I tried six times before it took. The first five times it took up okay but at about two-thirds spooled it crumpled and jumped off the track. The stuff feels thicker than the Acros and Kosmo Foto films I’ve developed previously, films that went onto the reel like they were born to be there. The T-Max felt almost as thick as the expired Verichrome Pan I could never manage to get on the reel. It, too, kept crumpling and jumping the track.

I vocally compared the film to the male offspring of a female dog and tried again. It crumpled and jumped the track again, but in frustration I forced the film flat and back onto the track, which crumpled it further but let me keep on. From there I ratcheted the reel very slowly, and finally all of the film was wound on.

Naturally, those crumples showed up as dark curved lines on the developed negatives, which translated to light curved lines on the scans. With Photoshop’s healing tool I was able to fix them well enough.

I used Rodinal at its 1+50 dilution and used the spinner to agitate the film. Because the weather is cooler now my bathroom, and therefore all of my solutions, were a perfect 20° C so I didn’t have to adjust developing time for temperature. I also made sure the reel was pushed to the bottom of the core, and therefore the tank.

To my eye the negatives are a little thin. I fiddled with exposure and contrast in Photoshop to counteract it. I also misfocused a couple shots. I’m usually spot on with my Yashica-12, but not this time. Finally, and I’m not sure why, my scanner simply would not bring in the entire frame of the frog statuettes. The ScanGear software detects the frame’s edges for you, and when it gets it wrong you have no recourse. I muttered under my breath, cropped the scan square, and moved on.

Here are ten of the 12 photos in order from first to last. The other two turned out so well that I’ll share them as Single Frame posts next week.

On our lane
Parked cars
Second Presbyterian
Heavy door
The Ruins

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Camera Reviews

This is a super good Polaroid camera for packfilm. Unfortunately, you can’t buy fresh packfilm anymore. All good things must end. But you can read my refreshed review here.

Polaroid Automatic 250

Updated review: Polaroid Automatic 250


Being rebuilt: the destroyed 1892 Holliday Road bridge

I’m blown away that it’s happening: the 1892 Pratt through truss bridge on Holliday Road in southeastern Boone County, Indiana, is being rebuilt.

Mark Finch photo

Last we looked in on this bridge, it had just been destroyed by a tractor towing a farm implement too wide for the bridge.

Boone County Sheriff’s Office photo

I’m hearing reports that despite this level of destruction, a surprising amount of the original steel was able to be reused.

Also known as the O’Neal Bridge, it underwent a significant restoration once before, from 2006 to 2009. Here’s a photo I made of it in 2011.

The bridge on Holliday Road

This bridge is on a little-traveled gravel road in a lightly populated part of the county, so it’s hardly a critical transportation link. But as one of just three surviving steel truss bridges in the county, it’s wonderful to see it given one more chance to serve.

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Collecting Cameras, Film Photography

What’s the best film camera to start with?

Every time I see a post about the best first film camera, the comments pile on. So many different, strong opinions. So many of them recommend a mechanical, manual SLR like the Pentax K1000 or the Minolta SR-T 101.

I think that’s a terrible place for a newbie to start. There’s so much to learn about exposure to use a camera like that. It’s a barrier that could turn a budding film photographer away.

Instead, buy an auto-everything 35mm SLR from late in the film era, around the turn of the century. My favorites are the Nikon N-series cameras, like the N55, N60, and N65. Get one with a lens already attached, preferably a Nikon Nikkor. A 28-80mm zoom lens is common and still useful. You can buy kits like these for $30 on eBay every day. (Read my post here about how to buy film gear on eBay.)

Nikon N65

There are some risks. Any used camera could have issues. But I choose these N-series cameras because, in my experience, unless one has been abused it is likely to work reliably.

The other reason I recommend these cameras is that when you twist the big dial atop the camera to Auto, you have a giant point-and-shoot camera. You’ll easily get great first results.

Nikon N65

If you try one only to realize that film photography isn’t for you, you’re out very little money. You can probably sell the kit to someone else for what you paid for it!

If you find you like shooting film, keep going with this auto-everything SLR until you feel like you’ve mastered it. Then try a mechanical, manual camera like that K1000 (more info here) or SR-T 101 (more info here).

Here are some photos I made with my Nikon N60 and N65 with my 28-80mm f/3.3-5.6-G AF Nikkor lens, a common one to find with these cameras. I used everyday color films: Fujicolor 200 and Kodak Gold 200, which you can still buy at the drug store. I walked up, twisted the lens barrel to zoom in on the scene, and pressed the button. (My wife shot the last one.) That’s all there is to it.

Red house
Story Inn
A portrait of the photographer

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Camera Reviews

Here it is, Canon’s EOS 650, the first EOS camera from 1987. They made a whole new lens mount and range of lenses to move their 35mm SLR line into the modern era. Read my updated review here.

Canon EOS 650

Updated review: Canon EOS 650