💻 Alister Scott recently gave his longstanding blog (about software testing) a major upgrade, which included going off WordPress.com to self-hosted WordPress. I was at a similar crossroads earlier this year and chose WordPress.com Business Plan, so I was especially interested to hear Alister’s reasoning. ReadWhy self hosted?
💻 Scott Galloway makes a compelling argument that post-COVID 19, non-elite expensive colleges and universities will have a reckoning, and most won’t survive. ReadPost Corona: Higher Ed, Part Deux
📷 This Kodak Instamatic is a proper camera, with full manual control, a coupled light meter, and a fine Schneider-Kreuznach lens! Neil Piper reviews it. ReadThe Kodak Instamatic 500 / Type 048
📷 Mark O’Brien takes his Agfa Clack out for some exercise. This little box can do some great work, and Mark got some lovely images this time out. ReadThe Agfa Clack – a 6×9 gem
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This week I shot a roll of Kodak Tri-X in 120 that expired in 1981.
Back then, Kodak packed a useful sheet of information in the box. It was loaded with helpful tips for shooting and developing this film to get good results. I scanned it in so I could share it with you. Click either image to see it larger.
In 1981, when you bought a roll of Tri-X you could spool it into any camera, even one you didn’t know well, and use these instructions to get usable results. It’s too bad Kodak doesn’t pack these info sheets today.
From the 1980s to the early 2000s, camera manufacturers manufactured as many compact point-and-shoot cameras as stars in the sky. Or so it seems. eBay lists billions and billions of them at any moment, at any rate. So many of them are crap, making it a crapshoot to find the good ones. So many are wildly overpriced. A tip: Pentax’s compacts in the IQZoom and Espio series are usually good, sometimes great — and are bargain priced. Like this one, the Pentax IQZoom 170SL.
The IQZoom 170SL is small: just 4.5×2.25×2 inches. But it packs a long lens, a 38-170mm f/5.6-12.8 SMC Pentax Zoom, of 8 elements in 6 groups. Did you catch that? SMC! Super Multi Coated! Just like all the great Pentax SLR lenses. Not all IQZoom/Espio cameras come so equipped. If you don’t see SMC on an IQZoom’s lens bezel, it doesn’t have an SMC lens.
The 170SL’s electronic shutter operates from 1/360 to 2 sec. It reads the film canister’s DX code to set ISO from 25 to 3200. Avoid non-DX coded films, as the camera defaults to a not-useful ISO 25. It focuses automatically, using a phase-matching five-point system. At the lens’s wide end it focuses from 2.45 feet; at maximum zoom from 3.9 feet. It sets exposure automatically.
The buttons atop the camera control its functions. One is for flash and shutter modes. When you turn the camera on, it uses flash when low light demands it, unless you turn flash off with this button. It also lets you force flash on and choose long shutter speeds, including bulb mode.
The middle button controls the autofocus, including infinity focus lock and spot focus. The next button turns on the self-timer and a wireless remote shutter control. My 170SL didn’t come with the remote, so I couldn’t try it. The right button sets the camera’s date and time. Some 170SLs don’t have this button, apparently. If you set a date and time, it imprints onto the negative.
The viewfinder offers diopter adjustment, a very nice touch. Move the slider on top of the viewfinder pod until the view is crisp.
The camera loads your film, winds, and rewinds automatically. You load the film upside down from the right side, which is a little odd. A single CR2 battery powers all.
This was an expensive camera: $433 when new. You could get a Pentax 35mm SLR kit for about that then!
If you like point-and-shoot 35mm cameras, check out my reviews of the Yashica T2 (here), the Pentax IQZoom EZY (here), the Nikon Zoom Touch 400 (here), the Olympus Stylus (here), the Olympus Stylus Epic Zoom 80 (here), the Olympus mju Zoom 140 (here), and the Kodak VR35 K40 (here). Or check out all of my camera reviews here.
I put a roll of Fujifilm Superia X-tra 400 into the 170SL and took it to downtown Zionsville one evening. Most places were closed thanks to the COVID-19 lockdown, so we had Main Street largely to ourselves. Here’s my favorite photo from the roll.
The IQZoom 170SL was an easy companion on this walk. It is very light but feels solid. Every control fell right to hand. It took me no time at all to blow through all 24 exposures on the roll.
The zoom worked smoothly but a little slowly, with a soft whirr. Winding was similarly quiet. I’m impressed with how the autoexposure system navigated mixed lighting.
I’m impressed with the sharpness and bold color I got. This camera made Fuji 400 look better than I’ve ever seen it.
Next to the viewfinder are green and red lights. The green light glows when autofocus has a lock. The red light blinks when flash is charging and glows steady when flash is ready. In this fading light the flash fired a lot. I knew when I photographed this sign the flash would reflect. So I turned flash off and the long-exposure mode on and shot it again. That shot turned out soft.
In dim corners the 170SL gave surprisingly shallow depth of field.
That roll flew by so fast I barely got a feel for the camera. So I loaded some Fujicolor 200 and took the camera on a lunchtime walk through the shopping centers near my home. I was glad for a bright day, as full sun is so often a challenge for point-and-shoot cameras. Not so the 170SL. Just look at that color!
I detect a whiff of pincushion distortion here, but overall I find this lens to suffer little from distortion. Again: just look at that color!
I find yellows commonly wash out on consumer color films, but the 170SL brought it in, big and bold, every time. This photo shows a little vignetting which I suppose is to be expected from a compact zoom camera.
The 170SL even rendered black impressively deep and true.
I forgot to mention earlier that the 170SL has a panorama mode. A switch on the bottom moves masks in place over the film and in the viewfinder.
That scene was too far away, so I zoomed in to the max and shot again. At 170mm it’s hard to hold the lens steady.
I did manage one decent 170mm shot. For this one, I stood square, breathed steadily, and squeezed the shutter button slowly. It’s still soft, but not due to shake this time. That’s just how maximum zoom goes on these point-and-shoot cameras, in my experience.
I’m impressed with the Pentax IQZoom 170SL. Actually I’m blown away by the bold, rich color I got on everyday color film. I plan to put a couple rolls of black-and-white film through this camera to see how they perform. If they wow me as much as these color rolls did, I might just have a keeper!
If you like old film cameras, check out all of my reviews here! To get Down the Road in your inbox or feed reader, subscribe here.
You’ll find the Moon-Lite Motel in Versailles (ver-SALES), Indiana, on US 421. That’s also the Auto Trail alignment of the Michigan Road. I’ve seen other photos with the neon fully working — the MOTEL letters light up in pink.
You never know what you’re going to get when you choose to stay at an old motel like this. Thank heavens for Google and its reviews, which say that this is one of the good ones.
I thought I’d use Rodinal for some time before trying other developers, but I’ve just tried an HC-110 clone, LegacyPro L110. It didn’t go as well as I hoped, but all was not lost.
I was looking for a developer to use with a roll of Adox HR-50 that the kind folks at Analogue Wonderland sent me to try. It’s a specialty film modified for use in regular photography. The roll is in my Olympus OM-1 now.
The Massive Dev Chart has timings for HR-50 with only a few developers, and my go-to, Rodinal, isn’t one of them. Adox mades a developer especially for this film, HR-DEV, and it’s allegedly great for all black-and-white films. I probably should have just bought it. I might yet.
But my first thought was to use HC-110. The Massive Dev Chart has timings for HR-50 in Ilfotec HC, which is said to be an HC-110 clone. HC-110 is less expensive than Ilfotec HC. But L110 is less expensive still than HC-110, and I could get it in a smaller quantity than HC-110. So that’s what I bought.
I put a roll of Arista EDU 200 into my Pentax ME with the 50mm f/1.7 SMC Pentax-M lens attached. I shot the roll over a couple days around the house and neighborhood and then developed it in L110 Dilution E, which is 1:47.
The popular dilutions appear to be B at 1:31 and H at 1:63. But Dilution B gives a development time of just 3:30 at 20° C, which gives no margin for timing error. Dilution H gives some margin at 7 minutes of development time at 20°. But you need at least 6 ml of L110 or the developer will exhaust before the film is developed. At Dilution H, that would mean a far greater volume of diluted developer than would fit into my 290 ml tank. I didn’t want to use my 500 ml tank, so I compromised on Dilution E. I always round up to 300 ml in my 290 ml tank, which led to 6.2 ml L110 and 293.8 ml water. HC-110/L110 development times scale linearly with dilution, so I calculated 5:15 at 20°. The diluted developer was 21.2° thanks to room temperature, which would have reduced development time to less than 5 minutes. So I chilled it in tap water until it reached 20° and plunged in.
I gave all that detail to show how careful I was. Yet I got thinnish, slightly underdeveloped negatives. When I scanned them on my CanoScan 9000F Mark II using the bundled ScanGear software, only a few images looked truly good. Most needed heavy rescuing in Photoshop and even then many of those turned out marginal. A few images could not be salvaged.
I’ve had growing thoughts for a while now that ScanGear isn’t giving me the best from my negatives. So I bought VueScan (thanks to your Buy Me a Coffee donations!) and rescanned the whole roll. VueScan gave me far better scans from these negatives, though it did take far longer to scan the roll than with ScanGear. Quality takes time. Still, VueScan couldn’t overcome all of the underdevelopment. Shadows are blocked up in several shots.
I think next time I’ll just use Dilution H and my larger tank, to give myself more development time and therefore more margin for error.
I shot a series of things on my coffee table with the camera on a tripod, and many of those turned out well.
Most of my outdoors photos turned out well.
These two photos led me to try VueScan. Using ScanGear, the first was muddy and dark beyond saving, and the second had blocked-up shadows everywhere. VueScan let me make them usable.
One last photo from the roll. I shot this one at noon, sunlight streaming in through a nearby window. It looks like I shot it at night.
I’ve popped another roll of Arista EDU 200 into the Pentax ME. I love using that camera anyway, and I want to have another go with L110. This time I’ll just use Dilution H in my larger tank.
I grew up a mile or so away from this motel and its neon sign. I saw it a lot while I was growing up, and its neon was usually in disrepair. It made me happy to find it lit and fully working when I visited my hometown this day.