Film Photography

Shooting Fujifilm Instax Square Monochrome

Fujifilm Instax Square SQ6

I continued my exploration of the Fujifilm Instax Square SQ6 camera with a pack of the Monochrome film. The color film didn’t wow me (see some images here), but I’d seen images from the Monochrome online that showed promise.

I’m still learning the camera, too. I almost have the controls down; my remaining bugbear is using close-up mode when regular mode would work better. I’m also getting a feel for how wide the lens is and how much the viewfinder doesn’t line up with the lens.

I instantly (see what I did there?) liked the Monochrome film more than the color film. It’s not perfect, though.

After I scanned these prints, I tweaked the scans in Photoshop until they looked like the actual print. That had the effect of turning the border gray, when it is actually bright white. No matter; it’s the image that counts. Here’s our granddaughter putting a bowl on her head.

Bowl on her head

The SQ6’s viewfinder infuriates me. When I framed this electric tower, it was horizontally centered and it filled the frame. Why did Fujifilm put the viewfinder so far away from the lens? Could they not have at least positioned it top center on the camera so horizontally centered subjects would be horizontally centered on the print? But notice how well the Monochrome film captured these clouds. Very nice.

Power tower

My ideal Instax camera would also have a longer lens, in the ballpark of a 50mm lens on a 35mm camera. I get it, Instax photography is about putting your besties in the frame at medium range, and a wide lens lets you capture your whole posse.

Clubhouse

The Monochrome film is capable of reasonable midrange tonality. But it always blocks up in the shadows and often blows out in the highlights, sometimes in the same photograph. This photo shows Monochrome’s blocked-up/blown-out tendencies best: the grass is black, the street is white.

Front yard

The subject of this photo is a dwarf tree full of pink blooms, grass below and sky above. Now, I do shoot with the camera set to Darken outside, which is probably -1 EV. But if I shot at normal exposure, it would probably lead to slightly more shadow detail and a completely blown-out sky.

Dwarf tree

In scenes where contrast is managed, Instax Square Monochrome film does a reasonable job of capturing detail.

6516

I tried one selfie in this pack. I tried to frame myself enough to the side in the mirror next to the lens so I’d appear in the center of the print, but I didn’t manage it. It’s tricky to frame things accurately with this camera, period. I can live with every other limitation of this camera, but this one could well be a deal breaker.

Selfie

I’m sure I’ll try at least one more pack of the Monochrome film, and maybe one more of the color film, before I decide whether to keep this camera. I don’t love it, but I don’t hate it. I can learn to live with the wide lens, but I am willing to try only so long to figure out the viewfinder for accurate framing. It’s hard for me to justify keeping cameras I don’t at least solidly like.

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At The Ruins

What’s left of the St. Paul Building
Aires Viscount
Ilford HP5 Plus
LegacyPro L110, Dilution B
2021

Some years ago Margaret and I visited Manhattan. We walked from our hotel on 56th St. near Central Park, out to the Hudson River and then south along the walking paths all the way to the World Trade Center and the Financial District. We lingered at St. Paul’s Chapel and its memorial to 9/11. Read about it here.

From 1898 to 1958, an early skyscraper named after the chapel stood across the street. The St. Paul Building had 26 stories and was 315 feet tall — and was regarded by many as ungainly, even ugly. Few tears were shed upon its demolition.

This is its facade. Look closely, and you can just make out ghost letters spelling ST. PAUL BUILDING over its columns. It stands in Holliday Park, a large, lovely park on the Northside of Indianapolis. It’s part of an installation called The Ruins, which recently completed a renovation.

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Film Photography

single frame: What’s left of the St. Paul Building

The facade of the St. Paul Building, which stood in New York until 1958 but now lives in Indianapolis.

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Film Photography

Shooting the 135mm f/2.8 MC Auto Sears lens for Pentax K mount

When you buy old cameras, as I do, you frequently get lenses with them. When you’re lucky, you get a really good one, like the time I got a 50mm f/1.4 Rokkor lens with a Minolta SR-T 202 body attached, for something like 30 bucks. That was a good day.

More often, however, you get third-party lenses. I’ve lost track of how many Vivitar lenses I’ve owned, for example. These lenses are decidedly a mixed bag: some are crap, most are so-so, and a few are surprisingly good. In contrast, lenses from the camera maker are usually good to great.

A number of lenses for the Pentax K mount had Sears branding on them. Sears, the once-great department store, bought them from overseas lens manufacturers. A Sears lens could have been manufactured by Ricoh, Cosina, Tokina, or others.

I forget how I came to own this 135mm f/2.8 MC Auto Sears lens. It might have come with the Pentax KM I bought from my old friend Michael many years ago; there were a lot of lenses in that camera bag. Based on the lens’s design and markings, and some Internet sleuthing I’ve done, I am guessing that Tokina made this lens.

I came upon it the other day, realized I’d never used it before, and decided to try it on my Pentax ME. I’m not sure what happened to most of the roll of Ilford Delta 400 I shot, but about a third of the images were so dark as to be useless. I hope my beloved ME is not developing a fault.

Fortunately, all of the images turned out fine from the Sunday morning our granddaughter came to visit. Here are the best of them.

At the shore

Based on these results, I’d say that this lens is optimized for portraiture. I shouldn’t be surprised; that seems to be the raison d’etre for any 135mm lens. Check out the blurred foreground in the photo below. That effect was a staple of these photos.

At the shore

It was a little tricky to focus with this lens in bright light as the focus patch tended to go black. When that happened, I guessed as best I could. That’s why the little dog is crisper than our granddaughter in this shot.

In the front yard

In this photo I was deliberately focusing on my wife’s face. The available light forced me to a wide aperture, which led to shallow depth of field.

With our granddaughter

I shot the rest of the roll at indiscriminate subjects just to see what turned out. This is the ash tree in our front yard. The blurred background is flat and lifeless, and contrast is poor. I had to boost contrast on all of these photos far beyond what I normally do after scanning negatives.

Car behind a tree

This lens is capable of good sharpness and detail.

Shed window

It would have been far wiser to test this lens making portraits. But I don’t make many portraits. This is the kind of photography I do, and no 135mm lens is suited to it. At least this 135mm f/2.8 MC Auto Sears lens handled well and is solidly built. Its built-in lens hood was a nice touch.

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Show me some leg

Show me some leg
Olympus OM-2n
50mm f/3.5 Zuiko Auto Macro
Ilford Delta 400
LegacyPro L110 B
2021

Before the Marion County Courthouse was torn down in downtown Indianapolis, statues of six Greek goddesses stood in that building’s tower. Someone decided the statues were worth saving. I know where three of them ended up: one in Crown Hill Cemetery and two in Holliday Park, flanking The Ruins. This is a detail of one of the statues at The Ruins.

This statue lost its head at some point; see the whole thing here.

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Film Photography

single frame: Show me some leg

Detail of a statue of a Greek goddess that used to stand in the former Marion County Courthouse.

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Film Photography

Shooting Foma Fomapan 400

Selfie

I like to learn things by trying them. It would be a lot more efficient if I could learn things by reading about them, or hearing about them, and accepting the information as fact. But I always have to find out for myself.

The blogs and forums all say that Fomapan 400 looks best when shot at EI 160 or 200. But the box says 400. I’m stubborn about this: why the heck would a manufacturer rate a film at a particular ISO if they don’t mean it? Call me stubborn, but I always shoot a film for the first time at box speed. If the results demand it, the next time I shoot I adjust exposure up or down as appropriate.

Pentax Spotmatic F

It was time to give my Spotmatic F some exercise. I chose my delightful 55mm f/1.8 SMC Takumar lens for this roll. I developed the film in LegacyPro L110, dilution B.

I got okay results from most of the roll. I’m pleased with my bathroom-mirror selfie above. Everything is so sharp, you can almost count the hairs on my head. I’m reasonably pleased with these next four photos. They show good detail and a reasonable tonal range, and good contrast after I boosted it in Photoshop. My Minolta ScanDual II scanner delivers mighty flat scans, so punching up the contrast is a must. If you pixel peep you’ll see lots of pleasant grain.

Depository
Est. 1851
Whitestown buildings
Brewpub Entrance

The main challenge I had with this film at EI 400 that shadows looked underexposed. This photo shows this reasonably well; look under the front bumper and around the wheels. The negatives looked to have good density to me, though I’m still developing my eye for that.

Stewarts

A few shots on the roll looked flat and lifeless, no matter what I did to them in Photoshop.

Meijer

A couple of the flat shots benefited from reducing exposure in Photoshop, at cost of enhancing the grain.

Bridgelet
Durango in the neighborhood

It was lovely to shoot my Spotmatic F again. It’s such a wonderful SLR. Every time I use it, I wonder why I don’t use it more often. Then I remember that I own about 15 very nice SLRs at the moment, plus about 20 other lovely cameras. I’d have to shoot one roll of film every week to be able to use each of my cameras about once a year.

Carts
Prayer mail

I bought several rolls of Fomapan 400 (and 200) when Freestyle Photo had it on sale not long ago. I’ll shoot another roll of the 400 again soon, but I’ll set my camera to EI 200 and see what happens then. Because I’m an experiential learner.

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Lampshade

Tripod lamp
Pentax Spotmatic F, 55mm f/1.8 SMC Takumar
Foma Fomapan 400
LegacyPro L110, dilution B
2021

When I bought my previous house, I had next to nothing. A futon, a bunch of end tables, a TV. I had to buy everything else. I bought some lamps at Target. One of them has a wooden tripod base, which I thought was cool for what are probably obvious reasons if you’ve read my blog for more than five minutes.

For years it stood on the table next to my easy chair. Since moving in with Margaret, it’s been on a table next to my desk. Given that I usually load film into cameras while sitting here, and I usually need to burn off a shot or two after closing the film door, I photograph this lamp a lot now.

I made this particular photo in my Spotmatic F on Fomapan 400, a film I’d never shot before. This being the first photo on the roll, half of the negative was blank from being exposed to light during loading. I cropped that part out and boosted contrast in Photoshop, which brought out the lampshade’s two textures. I find the tonality, softness, and grain of this image to be pleasing.

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Film Photography

single frame: Tripod lamp

Detail of the lamp next to my computer desk, on Fomapan 400.

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