Film Photography

I’m back on Instagram

My off-again, on-again relationship with Instagram is on again. If you’re on Instagram, I hope you’ll follow me at instagram.com/mobilene.

It’s still all film photography. But this time I’m skipping the filters. Except for perhaps a little cropping to help bring subjects front and center, these images are unedited.

When I share a photo on Instagram it’s usually related to whatever I’m doing on this blog that day. But I try to show images that don’t appear here, so that if you follow me in both places you get something extra.

But I’ve learned through trial and error that an appealing blog photo doesn’t necessarily translate to Instagram. People interact so casually with Instagram, and the photos are so small. I find that big, obvious subjects and images with lots of contrast grab people as they quickly scroll by. At least as evidenced by which of my images get the most Likes.

Not that I get that many likes, really. It’s remarkable when any of my posts gets more than 50. I’ve never had one clear 100. Which brings up the whole tedious “what’s the point of social media” discussion, which I wish to avoid. Getting Likes is fun. It’s a quick dopamine hit.

What makes Instagram even more fun is the other film photographers I follow there, and how we interact with each others’ work. Old School Photo Lab, the lab I use most often, follows me and sometimes shares my work. (See their Instagram here.) Somehow I attracted the attention of a past president of Pentax, who follows me now; perhaps it’s all the work I’ve shared recently from my Spotmatic and my ME. (See his Instagram here.)

I fit Instagram in when I can, meaning that I share images when I have time and don’t worry about it when I don’t. I make time most days to scroll through and see what the people I follow are up to, though.

Will you be one of them? I hope you’ll follow me: instagram.com/mobilene. If you share your interesting work on Instagram, I’ll follow you back!

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Old cars, Film Photography

Kodak Plus-X and the Carmel Artomobilia

I had two SLRs slung over my shoulders at the 2017 Carmel Artomobilia last month: my Pentax ME with wonderful Fujifilm Superia 100 inside, and my Pentax Spotmatic F with my last roll of Kodak Plus-X.

Cobra

On this day, with this lens (55mm f/1.8 SMC Takumar), the Plus-X returned blacks you could just fall into.

Camaro

And the grays and whites came out creamy.

Hurst Olds

I wished briefly that I had screwed in my 35mm f/3.5 SMC Takumar. The thick crowds made it difficult, at best, to back up far enough to get entire cars in the frame. The 35/3.5 would have made me back up a lot less.

Toronado

But I’ve been exploring the 55/1.8’s considerable charms lately, and in retrospect am not disappointed I left it on the camera. It performed well, and it’s seldom a real problem to focus on an old car’s details.

Firebird

Growing up in the 1970s as I did, when half or more of the cars on the road were from GM, it was easy to take their dominance for granted. Looking back, it’s clear just how good their designs were. How daring it was in 1970 that the second-generation Camaro and Firebird had no distinct rear passenger windows! The shape of this window opening is just smashing.

Flying lady

Packard’s Flying Lady hood ornaments are a favorite subject. I shoot them whenever I come across them at a car show.

Ol' propeller nose

This is the famous front end of the Studebaker I photographed from the rear here. The girl walking away was a happy coincidence as I framed this shot, so I made sure to include her.

Citroen

The Citroën DS is funky from every angle and in every detail. Just check out how these headlights don’t both point forward. This is a later DS; earlier ones had uncovered headlights.

R/T

Plenty of American muscle was on display at the Artomobilia. I’m partial to the Mopars of the era for their no-nonsense styling.

Avanti

Avantis were made in my hometown, South Bend. They were Studebakers at first, but after Studebaker shuttered a new company formed to keep Avanti production going. They used leftover Studebaker engines at first but eventually had to turn to Chevy to provide powerplants. Post-Studebaker Avantis were given the “Avanti II” name, probably for rights reasons.

Avanti II

As the show began to wrap up and the crowds thinned, I was able to get a few wider shots of the event and its cars.

Vette 2

It wasn’t all classics at the Artomobilia. Several owners of newer hi-po Ford Mustangs lined up their cars for inspection.

Hoods up

Here’s hoping I can find time for more car shows. I do love to photograph cars and I think I’ve become pretty good at it. They’re certainly the subject with which I am most confident.

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Piloting the Buick

At the wheel of the old Buick
Pentax Spotmatic F, 55mm f/1.8 SMC Takumar
Kodak Plus-X
2017

I’ve never been very good at moving fast. I’m more the slow, thoughtful type. But there are moments in my photography when a wonderful scene emerges before my eyes and I have to move fast before it disappears. Such was this moment.

I forget what my camera’s settings were. I probably didn’t even know as I framed and focused. I probably just twisted the aperture ring until the viewfinder’s exposure needle registered good exposure, pressed the shutter button, and trusted that on such a bright day I’d have settings that would give me enough depth of field.

I was right. And I moved fast enough to catch the girl’s delighted smile.

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Film Photography, Old cars

single frame: At the wheel of the old Buick

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Film Photography

Kodak Plus-X in the Pentax Spotmatic F

I love Kodak Plus-X. It’s a shame Kodak discontinued it.

All of the Plus-X photos I’ve shared on this blog have come from some expired stock I bought a few years ago. It was promised to have always been stored cold, and it performed like new.

My last roll had been moldering about the refrigerator for going on two years because I wanted to honor it with the perfect subject. Finally I decided that no subject would ever be perfect enough. I might as well just shoot it up.

I loaded it into my Pentax Spotmatic F, mounted my 55mm f/1.8 SMC Takumar lens, and carried the camera with me wherever I went. Naturally, I started in the yard. I often do. I hadn’t moved out of my old house yet.

Sale Pending

I had the Spotmatic along while Margaret and I took an evening stroll down Main Street in Zionsville. It’s become tradition that I shoot the Black Dog Books sign.

Black Dog Books

This shop on Main Street had closed for the night, but there was enough light for me to press the lens to the window and make this photograph.

Window shopping

And then a perfect subject came along: the Carmel Artomobilia. I’ve already shown you color photographs from this show here, and I’ll show you more black-and-white photos from this roll in an upcoming post.

Carmel Artomobilia

But as a preview, here are a couple wide shots.

Oldsmobile butts

I’m sure I could buy more Plus-X. It shows up from time to time on eBay, and the Film Photography Project has been known to sell it sometimes. It is said to usually perform well even when it hasn’t been stored cold.

But I think it’s time I shoot up my backlogged stock and then stick largely to films that are still being manufactured. Expired, discontinued films certainly have their charms. I might still be wooed here and there. But I wish to find my go-to films, the ones I reach for again and again because I know them well and can shoot for their strengths. If Plus-X were still being manufactured, it would absolutely be my slow-speed black-and-white film. Alas.

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Camera Reviews, Film Photography

Olympus μ[mju:] Zoom 140

Is that a zoom lens in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?

Sorry, I couldn’t resist. It’s just that the Olympus μ[mju:] Zoom 140 packs an awful lot of zoom lens into a pocketable camera.

Olympus µ(mju:) Zoom 140

But you’ll need a roomy pocket for this chunky camera. I suppose they couldn’t cram a 140mm zoom lens into a skinnier body. The Zoom 140 is much thicker than any of the other μ[mju:] cameras I’ve owned. (Actually, I’ve owned a few Stylus cameras, which is what the series is called in North America. This is my first one labeled μ.)

Olympus µ(mju:) Zoom 140

This camera came to me in a camera swap with Peggy Anne, who writes the Camera Go Camera blog. I feature her film-camera experience reports all the time in my Saturday Recommended Reading posts. I sent her my Olympus 35RC in exchange.

Olympus µ(mju:) Zoom 140

The Zoom 140 is as fully featured as you’d expect from any Stylus or µ camera. It begins with a 38-140mm f/4-11 lens, of 10 elements in 8 groups. It reads the DX code on the film canister to set ISO from 50 to 3200. It automatically focuses using an phase-detection system, advanced for its time and a first among µ/Stylus cameras. It also automatically sets exposure, as you’d expect; you can choose between a three-zone pattern or spot metering. The built-in flash is on by default, although it fires only when the camera needs more light. You can turn it off or set it to any of five other modes, including red eye and fill. The Zoom 140 includes a self-timer and — very nice for my aging eyes — a viewfinder dioptric correction dial. It really brought subjects into crisp view. The camera is also weather resistant; a little light rain won’t harm it. A CR123A battery powers everything.

Olympus µ(mju:) Zoom 140

I’ve been a black-and-white mood lately, so I loaded some Fomapan 200. Film loading is automatic: stretch the film across to the takeup spool and close the door. The camera takes it from there, winding to the first frame, advancing the film when you press the shutter button, and rewinding the film at the end.

I went to some of my usual haunts with the Zoom 140, including Washington Park North Cemetery.

Roman numerals

Little point-and-shoot cameras are great for walking-around photography, especially when they pack a lens as sharp and contrasty as this one.

Fountain before the fire department

The Zoom 140 was good at recognizing what I meant the subject to be. For distant subjects it brought everything into focus; for close subjects, it tried its best to create a blurred background.

Proclaim Liberty

Typical of always-on flashes, the Zoom 140’s flash sometimes fired when I preferred it didn’t. And typical of zoom point-and-shoots, the lens goes soft at maximum zoom, as the photo below shows.

Chunky SUV

Back it off maximum and the lens just keeps delivering. This is a camera worth getting to know much better.

Church entrance

I took the Zoom 140 with me on my bike ride up the Michigan Road. This is where I found the camera’s chunkiness to be a problem: it simply would not fit into the back pocket of my jeans. So I switched to cargo shorts and slipped it into a side pocket.

School No. 7

Zoom lenses are wonderful on road trips. It’s not always practical to cross a busy road to get near a subject. The zoom lens does the walking.

Discount Tire

But the versatile Zoom 140 knows how to play any game I have in mind. Documentary photography from a distance? Absolutely. Something more creative? Well, sure! If I didn’t know better, from the test roll’s results I’d say the camera was reading my mind on each shot.

Reflective Posts

Would you guess this scene is in the city of Indianapolis? I photographed this just a short distance off Michigan Road in Augusta, a former town.

Horses in Augusta

Finally, one Saturday morning I awoke to interesting light outside my bedroom window. I grabbed the Zoom 140 and stepped into the yard in my sleeping clothes to try to capture it.

Sunlight on the fence

To see more photos from this camera, check out my Olympus μ[mju:] Zoom 140 gallery.

Olympus made a bunch of models in its μ/Stylus series. After shooting several of them, I feel sure all of them must boast very nice lenses. If you’re looking for a capable point-and-shoot 35mm camera, try a μ/Stylus — any μ/Stylus.

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Camera Reviews, Film Photography

Kodak Retina Automatic III

Automatic exposure control on a Kodak Retina? You bet, and it was about time. Yet some of the Retina cognoscenti look down their snoots at these, the Retina Automatics. They decry the whole series as a cheapening of the line.

Kodak Retina Automatic III

Kodak produced Retina Automatics in its German factory from 1960 to 1963. The Automatic III, which debuted in early 1961, sat atop the line and featured a coupled rangefinder. It also packs a four-element 45mm f/2.8 Schneider-Kreuznach Retina-Xenar lens set in a Compur leaf shutter that operates from 1/30 to 1/500 second. The Automatic II was largely the same but for lacking a rangefinder. The Automatic I was further decontented, stepping down to a lesser lens and shutter.

Kodak Retina Automatic III

Through the 1950s, photographers aspired to well-made rangefinder cameras. The Retina was Kodak’s entry into that competitive market. But by 1960 the 35mm SLR was supplanting the rangefinder camera atop the heap of aspiration. Kodak surely added automatic exposure to the Retina as a way to keep photographers buying just a little bit longer.

Kodak Retina Automatic III

The Automatics’ usage is a little wonky compared to the modern autoexposure standard, but I expect that 1961 buyers weren’t bothered as such things were yet far from settled. There is no in-viewfinder exposure display — it’s only on the top plate. Having to move the camera away from your eye to check aperture is a pain. Fortunately, the Automatics won’t let you fire the shutter when it can’t get good exposure at the selected shutter speed. So you only need to check the aperture when you’re concerned about depth of field. These are also shutter-priority cameras, which feels odd today when aperture-priority autoexposure clearly won that battle (but, of course, lost to programmed autoexposure).

If you don’t like messing with any of it you can set exposure the old-fashioned manual way — this is a fully mechanical camera, after all. Given that these all use selenium exposure meters (made by Gossen; look for the name embossed in the glass), your chance is better than even that the meter has given up anyway. When buying a camera with a selenium meter, look for one that’s always been stored in darkness or with its meter covered. It increases your chance of success. This Automatic III was so stored, and its meter reads accurately enough.

That said, when my test roll (Kodak Gold 200) came back from the processor I ended up reducing exposure in Photoshop by a half stop on most images, as super sunny summer days washed things out. I blame the blisteringly bright days because I shot two other rolls of color film in other cameras at about the same time and got similar results from all of them. Regardless, this was a perfectly pleasant and functional Retina.

On 116th St.

This camera’s design is common to German camera makers of the time, down to the giant, knurled shutter button perched aside the lens board. I haven’t enjoyed using those on other cameras for being awkward to reach and having too much travel, but this one was fine on both counts. It operated smoothly, too.

Under construction

Downtown Fishers, Indiana, is heavily under construction. I wonder if 20 years from now someone will come upon this post and be astonished by seeing these then-stalwart buildings unfinished.

Under construction

This was a perfectly delightful camera to take on a photo walk, even though I carried it in my hands the whole time. (I left the leatherette case, to which a strap is attached, at home. I find them to be cumbersome, and so use them only for storage.) And as downtown Fishers transforms from sleepy little village of single-story homes into a modern, dense city center, there’s always something new to see when a camera is in my hand.

Apartments

I’ve always lived in well-established cities with all of their problems. I admit to a little prejudice against shiny, new cities like Fishers, flush with tax revenue from its upper-middle-class residents. It’s easy to build to a grand vision with that kind of money. Given how many of those residents choke I-69 each morning on their drive to work in well-established Indianapolis, I wish some of their taxes went to restore the crumbling infrastructure of the city whose existence frankly allows Fishers to thrive.

Flowers

Oh! Sorry, this is a camera review, not a screed against wealthy suburbs. Let’s move from Fishers to my Indianapolis front yard and its blooming garden. My gardens are no longer blooming, so it’s nice to see this image from just a few weeks ago as blooms were still popping.

Coneflowers

Any Kodak Retina is a reasonable camera to use in this modern age simply because the lenses are so wonderful and the usage isn’t too complicated. One, maybe two test rolls are all you need to learn any Retina and then make great images forever.

Lilies

What it is about Retinas that make me want to use them to shoot family gatherings? For the most part I use only auto-everything cameras for such duties because they’re fast and easy to use. But every time I have film in a Retina I seem to get it out when the family is around. Someday I’m going to learn to choose slower shutter speeds and smaller apertures so I get enough depth of field to cover my focusing sins, as in this photo. There’s my wife Margaret and my son Garrett, who does not look rapt as Margaret weaves her tale.

Grilling out

I focused better for this photo. There’s my son Damion and my dad, who is taking his turn telling a story, as Margaret listens.

Grilling out

To see more from this camera, check out my Kodak Retina Automatic III gallery.

Just as I shook my fist at wealthy suburbs, I also shake my fist at anyone who looks down upon these autoexposure Retinas. They’re fine cameras. And they go for very little compared to the better-known folding Retinas. I got mine for under $40 shipped. A Retina Automatic is a fine way to dip your toes into the Retina waters. If you do, I wager you’ll like it and buy more Retinas.

To see the rest of my camera collection, click here
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