Zeiss Ikon Contessa LK and Kentmere 100

Zeiss Ikon Contessa LK

I came upon my Zeiss Ikon Contessa LK recently and decided to shoot it again. I enjoyed the results I got last time on color film and wanted to try black and white in it. This seemed like a perfect opportunity to use the roll of Kentmere 100 that’s languished in my fridge for more than a year now.

I liked shooting the Contessa LK as much this time as I did last — it’s a pleasure to use. But while rewinding, I felt the film break. I figured I rewound too vigorously and pulled the film’s end out of the canister. So I stepped into a dark closet and spooled the film into a black film can. I sent it off to Dwayne’s with instructions to open it in the darkroom.

I got just 19 shots, with negatives, back from a roll of 36. The other 17 shots must still be in the film canister!

But wait, didn’t I have trouble rewinding film in this camera before? I looked up my review and found that a 24-exposure roll of color film had rewound fine, but a 36-exposure roll of black-and-white film rewound with great difficulty and soon tore. This Contessa LK must not like 36-exposure rolls.

I misfocused about a third of the shots so badly that they were unusable. I’ve become a pretty good judge of distance, so I don’t know how I screwed up so many photographs! But this shot of the corner of my car after some rain was in perfect focus, with strong detail and good tonality.

Wet Matrix

I like the composition of this shot, which I took Downtown, but it was a little underexposed. I improved the situation in Photoshop but at larger resolution you can see pretty serious grain.

High rise

I love the sense of depth this photo creates. I shoot these trees a lot as they’re on the golf course directly behind my house. The tree in front is an ash, and it’s been killed by the emerald ash borer. I’m sure the golf course will have it removed sooner or later.

Golf course trees

Of the shots I focused correctly, many of them had blown-out highlights, like this one. Some of the highlights were so blown that the shots were unusable. That was the big problem I experienced with this film the last time I shot it. Maybe Kentmere 100 just isn’t the film for me. It’s too bad, because it’s the least expensive black-and-white film I can find.


Side note: this is the new location for Roberts Camera, and it’s a lot more convenient than their old location. They’ve been getting my color-film processing business all summer. Unfortunately, they don’t process black and white anymore.

I sent the rest of this roll to a different processor, Old School Photo Lab, to see if I got different results. I expected I’d get several photos, but I got just this one. Several shots of my older son must have been right where the film tore. At any rate, I’m impressed with the lab for processing just one frame.

Front yard oak

This is a much better result: less intrusive grain, no blowouts, good tone and contrast and detail. This frame required no processing in Photoshop to look this good, although I did crop it a little. Processing and scanning aren’t the whole story, of course. This was a mostly cloudy day, so the sun wasn’t so intense.

I’m thinking I need to buy a little more Kentmere 100 and let Old School Photo Lab process it all. Maybe the Kentmere likes whatever soup they’re using better than the soup at Dwayne’s.


10 responses to “Zeiss Ikon Contessa LK and Kentmere 100”

  1. Dan Cluley Avatar
    Dan Cluley

    The design of it reminds me of the Kodak Automatic 35, but I’m guessing the quality is rather different.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      The Automatic 35 was actually styled to look like cameras like this. The German makers all went through a “high chrome top” phase in the late 50s/early 60s.

  2. Christopher Smith Avatar
    Christopher Smith

    The results you have from the camera are very good, You need to try developing your own black and white
    and then you can control what soup is used I use Ilford ID11 but there are others like Kodak D76 or one shot developers (like the one I emailed you about). heres a link to the PDF info sheet for the film, I have not used
    any Kentmere yet but I think I will, I will let you know how I get on with it


    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Yeah, yeah, I know, I know. Now that older son is off to college and I have a less stressful job, life really is starting to get easier and maybe, just maybe, I could add in processing my own b/w.

  3. Gerald Avatar

    In spite of your difficulties, there are some very nice nice photos here. I always like your pictures of shops and other buildings.

    For Guess Focus cameras 400 ISO film is your friend. It means you can stop down and get a greater depth of field, thus compensating for any errors.

    Can you get Fomapan in the US? It’s a really good quality budget film and comes in 100, 200 and 400 speeds and all formats.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Difficulties are part of the journey!

      Yeah, I probably should have shot the Kentmere in one of my rangefinders.

      I can get Fomapan here. I can buy it at B&H, I think. And I can buy Arista EDU from Freestyle, which is repackaged Fomapan. I shot some Arista 100 EDU recently and got some interesting results. I’ve been sharing photos from that roll a lot on my Tuesday/Thursday photo posts lately.

  4. pesoto74 Avatar

    That last photo is especially nice. It will be interesting to see if your new lab consistently makes this big a difference. I think the Zeiss Ikon cameras are some of the best in quality and among the most pleasant cameras to use.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I have been a little disappointed in the b/w results I’ve been getting this year. I wanted to blame Dwayne’s, but there are so many things that can go wrong. This roll of film seemed like a perfect opportunity to test whether Dwayne’s was a factor. I liked this one shot from Old School Photo Lab so much that I’ve sent other b/w rolls to them — and I’m getting consistently good results.

  5. dehk Avatar

    Weird, i never had problems with blown out high light with this film even mistakenly overexposed by 3 stops.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I can’t account for it entirely. I’ve shot this film in two different cameras and had similar blown-out highlights. I am wondering if the processing/scanning are part of the equation — both rolls (save the last shot, as the post explains) were processed by Dwayne’s, but that last shot by Old School Photo Lab and the exposure is terrific.

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