Film Photography

The 50mm f/3.5 Zuiko Auto Macro is a crackerjack lens

When you are walking about in daylight shooting whatever strikes your fancy, any Olympus OM SLR body and the 50mm f/3.5 Zuiko Auto Macro lens makes for a mighty satisfying kit.

OM Zuiko MC Auto-Macro 1:3.5 f=50m

Olympus made four versions of this lens over the years, all optically identical:

  1. Marked Olympus OM-System Zuiko Auto-Macro 1:3.5 f=50mm, single coated, silver-tipped outer ring
  2. Marked Olympus OM-System Zuiko Auto-Macro 1:3.5 f=50mm, single coated, black outer ring
  3. Marked Olympus OM-System Zuiko MC Auto-Macro 1:3.5 f=50mm, multi-coated, black outer ring
  4. Marked Olympus OM-System Zuiko Auto-Macro 50mm 1:3.5, multi-coated, black outer ring

The multi-coated versions are probably technically slightly superior to the single-coated versions, which have a reputation for flare. If you have a single-coated version, avoid shooting into the sun and you should be fine.

Because this is a macro lens, the focus scale is biased hard toward close shooting. That has the effect of making focusing on non-close objects simple: just leave it at infinity. Here are some of my favorite images I’ve made with this lens this way.

Carpentry Hall
Kodak Gold 200
Harvested by the barn
Fujifilm Superia X-tra 400
Swimming pool
Fujicolor 200
The house across the street
Kodak Gold 400 (expired 1/08)
Ilford Delta 400

I especially enjoy how this lens renders color. It elevates consumer color films above their station.

Naturally, this lens lets you move in very close, down to 9 1/8 inches. At that distance, subjects render at half life size. To get full size rendering, add Olympus’s Auto Extension Tube 25. I made all of these close shots without the extension tube.

Kodak Gold 200
Fujifilm Superia X-tra 400
Orange flower
Fujicolor 200
Drying paintbrush
Kodak Gold 400 (expired 1/08)
Concrete toes
Ilford Delta 400

You can pick up one of these lenses on eBay today in the $40-90 range, which isn’t bad for this kind of performance.

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Film Photography

The undervalued, underappreciated 50mm f/2 SMC Pentax-M lens

Pentax made several manual-focus 50mm primes back in the day. I detailed the three 50mm SMC Pentax-M primes, f/1.4, f/1.7, and f/2, in this post. They offered a similar range in their later SMC Pentax-A line. They even offered a 50mm f/1.2 in their original SMC Pentax line in 1975. Because Pentax offered such a comprehensive set of fast 50mm glass, all of it very good, it’s easy to overlook the slowest of them, the f/2. For that matter, it’s easy to look down one’s nose at the f/2. But that’s a shame. The 50mm f/2 SMC Pentax-M lens is excellent. Under most circumstances that call for a 50mm prime, it is all the lens anyone needs.

Pentax ME

The 50mm f/2 SMC Pentax-M brings good sharpness and renders strong detail. In situations where depth of field is shallow, this lens is capable of beautiful separation and a smooth blurred-background effect. When I shoot it with consumer color-negative film, this lens imparts a warmth that the f/1.7 and f/1.4 lenses just don’t.

Here are some of my favorite photos I’ve made with the 50mm f/2 SMC Pentax-M lens.

Carmel Artomobilia 2017
Pentax ME, Fujifilm Fujicolor 100
Pentax ME, Kodak Tri-X
Jeep light
Pentax K1000, Fujifilm Fujicolor 200
Pentax K10D (DSLR)
Stallard & Schuh
Pentax ME, Kentmere 100
Pentax ME, Kentmere 100
Shrubbery - Pentax Lens
Sears KR Super II, Fujifilm Fujicolor 200
Second Pres
Pentax ME, Fujifilm Fujicolor 200
Pentax ME, Fujifilm Superia X-tra 400 at EI 200
Woman with flowers
Pentax ME SE, Agfa Agfacolor Vista 400 (long expired)

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Film Photography

First impressions: 35-70mm f/4 SMC Pentax-A zoom lens

For the walking-around photography I often do, I like 28-80mm or 35-70mm zoom lenses. They’re like having three or four prime lenses on hand, but without having to dismount one lens to mount another. Their maximum apertures aren’t as wide as the primes they replace — f/3.5 or f/4, rather than f/1.7 or f/1.4. Fortunately, I commonly shoot at f/8 to f/16 when I’m walking about in daylight, so that’s no big deal.

I’ve long wanted such a zoom lens for my manual-focus Pentax SLRs. I recently bought a 35-70mm f/4 SMC Pentax-A lens because I got a good one at a good price ($44 shipped) on eBay. I liked that it was a twist zoom rather than a pump zoom. I find twist zooms to handle a little more easily.

I took my Pentax ME SE and this lens along on a recent road trip up the Michigan Road to South Bend. Unfortunately, the lens made the ME SE front heavy, which detracted from this camera’s usual easy handling. I probably should have mounted it to my larger and heavier Pentax KM instead. But what was done was done, and I pressed on with a fresh roll of Fujicolor 200. Still, I always carried this kit in my hand, strap dangling. That tells me it wasn’t too heavy.

This lens suffers from a common malady among short-range zoom lenses: barrel distortion at the wide end. This photo shows it a little.

Liquor store

Fortunately, that’s easy enough to correct in Photoshop, which I did on all of the rest of the images so affected.

Purple building in Plymouth

The lens doesn’t stay perfectly focused when you zoom. The amount of needed refocusing is tiny, however. You don’t need to correct it except when depth of field is shallow.

Sycamore Row

At 70mm, this lens focuses to four inches. What a nice touch.


On this photo, the sun was off to my left and created a little flare. I suppose I could look for a hood to fit this lens’s 58mm filter threads.

State Theater, Logansport

I am satisfied with the lens’s sharpness.

Michigan Road historic marker

The 35-70mm f/4 SMC Pentax-A is a solid, well-made lens. My copy is still well screwed together and tight. It handled and performed adequately.


This was the fourth roll of film I put through this Pentax ME SE, which I bought somewhat impulsively as I have a perfectly good regular Pentax ME. I’ll review the ME SE soon.

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Film Photography

Film coming out of my ears

You might remember a couple years ago that some of my posts were sponsored by Analogue Wonderland, that film superstore in the UK. They sent me a big box full of various films, and the only thing I had to do in return was plug them when I blogged about those films. Paul, one of the founders, really liked my writeups about those rolls. When I ran out of his film, he offered to send me another box! I said I would reach out after I shot up a bunch of film that had been hanging around my freezer for too long. I felt sure that would take just a couple months.

That was two years ago. I still haven’t gotten back to Paul.

What happened is that I came upon a big sale on short-dated Kodak T-Max 100. I couldn’t pass up buying ten rolls.

Then someone gave me some bulk Kodak Panatomic-X. I didn’t want to fuss with bulk loading, so I sent it to Mike Eckman. He responded by sending me a couple bulk-loaded rolls of the stuff, plus a handful of rolls of specialty films I haven’t gotten around to shooting yet.

Then Kodachromeguy came into the entire frozen film inventory of a longtime photographer who had passed away. He sent me a whole bunch of 120 film, mostly Ilford FP4 Plus, but also some Kodak Vericolor III. He also sent me a roll of GAF Versapan in 35mm to try.

Then he excitedly pointed me to an eBay auction for a dozen rolls of Kodak Plus-X that had always been cold stored. I simply adore Plus-X! I won that auction at an astonishingly good price. Four rolls of Kodak Tri-X of similar vintage were part of the lot, as well.

And then, with the cost of color film rising like mad, I found three three-packs of Fujicolor 200 at my local big-box store at about four bucks a roll. I couldn’t turn that down! Then I came across a good sale on an expired ISO 200 Ferrania color film branded for the Kroger grocery-store chain. I bought six rolls.

Then Kodak announced their Gold 200 film would be produced in 120, and as soon as I could I pre-ordered a five pack.

In short, I have film coming out of my ears.

Most of this is my fault. The T-Max 100, Plus-X, Fujicolor 200, and Kroger 200 films were all bargains and I just can’t resist a bargain.

But I had such a great time shooting all of that film Paul sent me. I’d really like to do it again. Unfortunately, it’ll probably take me two more years to shoot all of this film I now have, to make room in the freezer for more!

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Film Photography

Kodak Gold 200 in 120 may be less expensive than Ektar or Portra, but that doesn’t mean it’s inexpensive

I assume I’m among many who have jumped on the bandwagon and bought a five-pack of the forthcoming Kodak Gold 200 film in 120. I’m excited to be able to shoot this favorite film in my medium-format cameras.

Kodak is releasing this film to be a less-expensive alternative to its Ektar and Portra films. It’s supposed to retail at 25% less than those films.

I pre-ordered a five pack from B&H for $44.95. B&H sells five packs of Ektar for $52.99, of Portra 160 for $54.95, and of Portra 400 for $59.95. The new Kodak Gold 200 costs between 15% and 25% less than those films, so Kodak has almost achieved its pricing goal.

However, I do not find the new 120 Kodak Gold 200 to be an inexpensive film. With tax and shipping, my order came to $53.20, or $10.64 a roll. I favor films that cost $5 to $7 a roll. I can buy several black-and-white films in and near that price range, which is why I’ve shot a lot of black and white in my medium-format cameras lately.

Regardless, I’m eager to try Kodak Gold 200 especially in my old box cameras. I hope it works as well as Ektar always has for me in them. Check out how Ektar performed in my Kodak No. 2 Brownie, Model F here, and in my Argus Argoflex Forty here. Kodak Gold 200’s wide exposure latitude gives me great hope for similarly great results.

When the film arrives, I’ll probably test the first roll in one of my Yashica TLRs as a baseline before trying it in simpler cameras.

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Film Photography

The mixed results I get from Kodak T-Max P3200 are putting me off this film

When I first shot Kodak T-Max P3200, I was blown away by the great results. I shot the film in my Nikon F3 with my 35mm f/2.8 AI Nikkor lens attached. I don’t remember for sure who I had develop and scan the film, but it was probably Old School Photo Lab.

A pilgrimage to Central Camera
Open late
State Street at night

Unfortunately, I’ve had mixed results using other labs, and developing and scanning this film myself. I shot these two images with my Nikon FA, the first with my 50mm f/2.8 Micro-Nikkor and my second with my 35-70mm f/3.3-4.5 Zoom Nikkor. I developed them in HC-110, Dilution B, and scanned them with my Plustek OpticFilm 8200i. I find the grain to be obtrusive and not pleasing on these.

7th & Wabash, Terre Haute

On my recent trip to Chicago I shot a roll of this film in a Minolta Maxxum 5 with a 35-70mm f/4 Maxxum AF Zoom lens. I had Dwayne’s Photo develop and scan the roll. If this had been my first experience with this film, I would never have bought it again.

Blue Chicago sign
Chicago River at night

I believe my cameras all to be in good working condition with accurate meters. Perhaps this film requires great care in developing and scanning. If that’s true, I clearly haven’t found the touch yet. Perhaps this film looks better in developers other than HC-110. I suppose I could always send this film to Old School Photo Lab, as I get the best results from this film when I use them for processing. But I want films that I can develop and scan at home and get consistently good results. With my home development, I’ve had great luck pushing HP5 Plus to 1600. I think the next time I’m up for some night photography, that’s what I’ll try.

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