I wonder if I’ve been wrong about L110, which is a Kodak HC-110 developer clone — at least as pertains to Kodak T-Max 400.
I’ve panned L110 for delivering soft results that sometimes defy sharpening via Photoshop’s unsharp mask command. But this image looks plenty sharp. And for having been scanned on my flatbed scanner, it’s pretty smooth.
I think my scanner is the weak link in my process for sharing images with you. It’s probably as good as a flatbed scanner can be.
At any rate, T-Max 400 in L110 1+63 appears to be a winning combination.
When I heard that the Pentax IQZoom 60 has both a macro mode and an LED display that shows the exact focal length to which you are zoomed, I bought one as soon as I could find one. Those features would be so useful on a point-and-shoot 35mm camera! But they turned out not to be on this camera, not really. Worse, this camera was no fun to use.
The IQZoom 60 has middling specs, starting with a 38-60mm f/4.5-6.7 zoom lens of six elements in five groups. It uses an active infrared autofocus system; its autoexposure system offers no manual override. Its electromagnetic shutter operates from 1/30 to 1/250 second. A zoom range that narrow and a shutter that slow are probably fine for family snapshots and vacation photos.
To load the camera, open the door by pulling down on the lever at left, and then insert the film cartridge on the right, upside down. Pull the film across the takeup spool to the red line and close the door. Turn on the camera by sliding the slider next to the LCD to the middle position. The film winds to the first frame. The IQZoom 60 reads the film canister’s DX code to set ISO from 50 to 1600. If the film has a DX code outside that range, or has no DX code, the camera operates at ISO 100.
The IQZoom 60 focuses from 3.3 feet to infinity. In macro mode, the camera focuses only from a not-that-macro 1.8 feet. To put the camera in macro mode, move the on-off slider to the green flower. The camera zooms to 60mm and a magnifier with a green border pops into the viewfinder. If you compose a subject where nothing is in the macro range, the camera pulls the magnifier out of the viewfinder and focuses from 3.3 feet as normal. That’s a nice touch.
I don’t like the viewfinder. It’s small, and peering into it feels like looking through a toilet-paper tube with a thick piece of glass taped to its end. Inside you’ll find frame lines for normal and parallax-corrected close focusing, but they were hard to see except in blazing, direct sunlight.
To focus, put the thing you want in focus in the center of the viewfinder and press the shutter button halfway. The green light next to the viewfinder glows steady when the camera locks focus; it blinks when the camera can’t lock focus. Once you’ve focused, you can recompose if you want (but keep holding the button halfway down) and then shoot.
As usual with point-and-shoot cameras, the flash is always on and the camera uses it whenever it thinks there’s not enough light. The red lamp next to the viewfinder glows when the flash is ready to fire. You can also press the button under the on/off/macro switch to activate fill flash.
A surprisingly expensive CR-P2 battery powers the IQZoom 60.
I find it exciting that the IQZoom 60 shows you the lens’s focal length as you zoom. I like to use typical prime focal lengths, like 35mm, 50mm, and 85mm, as much as I can. But given the camera’s short zoom range, the only typical prime focal length here is 50mm. I’ll throw in 38mm to be charitable as it’s close enough to 35mm. That’s it. But I’ll bet people in this camera’s target market used the zoom to replace moving closer to or farther away from the subject and didn’t care what the lens’s focal length was.
When Pentax released the IQZoom 60 in 1987, it sold for $324. That’s equivalent to north of $750 today, a lot of money for a middling point and shoot! Pentax stopped production in 1991. In some markets, the camera was called simply the Zoom 60.
If you like 35mm point-and-shoot cameras, check out my review of another in the IQZoom series, the 170SL here. It’s everything this IQZoom 60 wishes it were. Also see my reviews of the Pentax IQZoom EZY (here), the Nikon Zoom Touch 400 (here), the Yashica T2 (here), the Olympus Stylus (here), the Olympus mju Zoom 140 (here), and the Kodak VR35 K40 (here). Or check out all of my camera reviews here.
Even though cameras like this were meant for color film, I loaded black-and-white T-Max 400 into it and took it on a walk around the Broad Ripple neighborhood in Indianapolis. I developed in LegacyPro L110 H (1+63) and scanned on my CanoScan 9000F Mark II with VueScan.
As you can see, the IQZoom 60 does good work. The lens is sharp and has no obvious distortion. But that doesn’t mean I liked using this camera.
I have four complaints about the IQZoom 60. First, that viewfinder, as I described earlier. Second, it’s large for a point and shoot, about the same size as a typical 35mm SLR! Third, it felt clumsy and plasticky in my hand.
Fourth, the combination shutter-zoom button was rubbery and blubbery. Sometimes I had to press the shutter button twice to get it to fire. That’s a real pet peeve with me — give me buttons that feel solid and sure under my finger.
Unfortunately, the button to zoom in was dead on this camera. I worked around it by putting the camera in macro mode, which zoomed the lens to the max, and then zooming out from there.
The camera’s so-called macro mode works well enough, though 1.8 feet is hardly macro. I used it in the photos above and below.
At least the viewfinder is accurate. It’s not on so many 35mm point-and-shoots. That’s another pet peeve of mine. But on the IQZoom 60, if you can manage to see the framing lines, whatever is inside them is actually in the frame, and nothing more.
Later, some remorse crept in. Then a reader offered to send me a Retina IIa he’d come upon but did not need. Oooh yeah baby. Here it is.
My first Retina IIa was an early one, because it had a Compur Rapid shutter. Those were made only in the first three months of this camera’s run, starting in 1951. This one has the more common Synchro Compur shutter of later IIas. Kodak stopped making the Retina IIa in 1954. The serial number on this one identifies it as from late in the run, April, 1954. Even though its focusing scale is in feet, the serial number doesn’t identify it as a US export camera. It was probably sold in a military PX overseas.
This one got some heavy use. Some of the exposed metal on the body is a little chewed up. The winder feels like grinding sand, and at the end of the throw you have to push it a little extra to fully wind and cock the shutter. The focusing ring is stiff, and there’s a spot where it catches and you have to push a little harder to get it through. The rangefinder patch is dim. A good CLA should restore it to full functioning, but some of the cosmetic damage is probably permanent.
This IIa comes with the 50mm f/2 Schneider-Kreuznach Retina-Xenon lens. I hear you could get a IIa with a 50mm f/2 Rodenstock Retina-Heligon lens, but I’ve never seen one. The lens stops down to f/16. The Synchro-Compur shutter operates from 1 to 1/500 second. I do like shutters with 1/500 because then I can shoot ISO 400 films in them more easily.
The raised button on the bottom plate opens the camera. To close it, first focus the lens to infinity — the camera won’t close unless you do this. Then press in the chrome and black buttons on the top and bottom of the lens board, and push the cover closed.
When you load film, twist the knurled ring atop the winding lever to set the film counter to the number of exposures on your roll. If you forget, and the counter reaches zero before you’ve finished the roll, the shutter won’t fire. If that happens to you, just twist the ring to a nonzero number and keep going.
If you like Kodak Retinas, by the way, I’ve reviewed a bunch of ’em: the Retina Ia (here), the Retinette IA (here), the Retina IIc (here), the Retinette II (here), the Retina Automatic III (here), and the Retina Reflex IV (here). Or check out all of my camera reviews here.
I was delighted to get this camera. But when I pushed a roll of Fujicolor 200 through it, I didn’t fall in love. I know what a joy a well-functioning Retina is to use, and this IIa’s balky winder and sticky focusing ring held the joy at bay.
I took this Retina IIa to Carmel, a northern suburb of Indianapolis, on a day off from work two weeks before the coronavirus confined us all to our homes. Statues like these are all over Carmel’s downtown — and they’re just weird. This is the least weird one. It made my favorite photo on the roll.
Later, the images came back from the processor — and each one was thick with fog and haze. I hung my head. I know that when I get an old fixed-lens camera of unknown provenance, I need to inspect the lens before putting film into it. Half the time the lens is dirty. A quick swab with isopropyl alcohol clears everything up and I avoid hazy photos. I know this. I KNOW THIS. Yet I fail to do it nearly every time, and half the time I get haze.
Thankfully, Photoshop made most of the images useful. It cleaned up this photo of Bub’s perfectly. If you’re ever in Carmel, do get a cheeseburger at Bub’s. They’re mighty good. There’s a Bub’s in Zionsville, where I live, too.
Many of the photos still show some residual haze. Oh well. I’ve done the best I can with them.
I remember shooting my first Retina, a Ia, in 2008. I really stumbled and bumbled my way through those first couple of rolls. I’ve gained a lot of experience with old gear since then. It’s nice to be able to pick up a camera like this now and be able to just get to work with it. I metered with an app on my iPhone. I shot the whole roll at 1/250 or 1/500 sec. because you never know about an old shutter’s slower speeds.
I made a day out of shooting this Retina IIa (and a Pentax Spotmatic F I also had along). I had lunch at an Irish pub on Main Street and then drove over to Broad Ripple in Indianapolis for more shooting.
By this time I was used to this particular Retina’s quirks and shot it fluidly. Even a battle-weary Retina can be a pleasant enough companion.
I revisited subjects I’ve shot many times, including the Monon bridge and this periwinkle storefront. There’s something comforting about returning to familiar subjects.
I finished the roll in my neighborhood.
This was the only (partly) sunny moment any of the times I had the Retina on my hands. I love how the fence fades off into the distance.
It’s been a long time since I used a Retina IIa, and I forgot the one thing about the camera I dislike: rewinding. The knob is short and hard to grasp, and the accessory shoe gets in the way as you twist it. Rewinding is a long session of short twists. You also have to press and hold the recessed button on the bottom plate the whole time. Yecch.
I’m likely to pass this Retina IIa along to a collector who will give it the tender loving care it deserves. I don’t know that I’m the man for the job.
I’m starting to develop 35mm black-and-white film now. It was my goal all along — I started with 120 because it let me shoot a roll fast so I could get to the developing. I shoot way more 35mm than 120 normally.
Last week I shared a roll of Arista EDU 200 I shot, developed, and scanned. I thought surely it and my whole box of to-shoot film was damaged by a space heater I kept too close by. But a commenter said “hey, maybe your Rodinal has gone weak.” I did open a new bottle of Rodinal to process some Eastman Double-X 5222 and, spoiler alert, it turned out perfect. So it was the Rodinal. Maybe I didn’t get the cap on right last time, and for the little bit left in the bottle the air scotched it.
I didn’t get that comment before I used that potentially compromised bottle of Rodinal to process this P30. Several photos turned out reasonably well. They might have looked better in fresh Rodinal. But they show P30’s signature characteristics: nearly undetectable grain, rich blacks, strong contrast, and a reasonable tonal range.
I shot this roll in my Pentax Spotmatic F with the 55mm f/1.8 SMC Takumar lens attached. I developed it in Rodinal 1+50 at 21° C for 12 minutes, 40 seconds. Ferrania advises 20° C for 14 minutes, but the ambient temperature led to 21° developer and I had to adjust development time. I used the Massive Dev Chart’s converter. The first two shots are from downtown Carmel, and the next four are from Broad Ripple.
Some photos didn’t fare as well. Anything with significant amounts of sky in it suffered. I shot all of these around Broad Ripple.
Interestingly, the film closest to the outside of the roll fared the worst. This is one of the first photos I made on this roll. It still shows P30’s signature rich blacks, despite being so mottled overall.
One last photo, just because I like it. That’s my wedding ring on the ring holder thing we keep near the kitchen sink. It’s Belleek pottery; we bought it at the Belleek factory in Northern Ireland when we visited a few years ago.
I have one last roll of P30 Alpha, which I just retrieved from my freezer. I’ll shoot it soon and I expect far better results from it, developed with fresh Rodinal 1+50.
The Rainbow Bridge in Broad Ripple Pentax K1000, 55mm f/1.8 SMC Pentax Kodak Gold 400 2017
This bridge was built in 1906 to carry Guilford Avenue over the Central Canal in Indianapolis’s Broad Ripple neighborhood.
Underneath the deck, it’s a typical single-span concrete arch. What sets this bridge apart is its railings. The oval “links” are unique.
I have a dim memory from 25 or more years ago of the railings being painted in a more random color pattern. I have a clear memory of this railing being much shorter — in about 2013 a row of block was added underneath the links. See a photo of the shorter railing here. This was probably done to make it harder to fall off the bridge into the canal.
Stephen Dowling of Kosmo Foto sent me a few rolls of film from his fridge in thanks for a favor. It was mostly slide film, something I haven’t shot very much as my skinflint tendencies reliably turn me to inexpensive stuff like Fujicolor 200. I’ve been shooting it a roll here and a roll there. After enjoying a roll of my usual inexpensive stuff in my Nikon N2000 recently, I went for broke and loaded a gifted roll of slide film: Fujifilm Provia 400X.
My 35-70mm f/3.3-4.5 Zoom Nikkor lens was already on the camera, so I left it there. Say what you will about zoom lenses, and this zoom lens in particular — Ken Rockwell calls it one of Nikon’s worst lenses ever — but I like this lens. It’s sharp enough, the zoom range is super useful for the subjects I shoot on photowalks, and it offers a macro mode. The wicked barrel distortion evident at its wide end is easily corrected in Photoshop.
I am pleased with the rich color this film delivered. It hits a sweet spot between realistic and deep. These are the colors I remember when I was on the scene, but they’re richer, deeper somehow, and they make me want to go back and experience them again in person.
This place, by the way, is Broad Ripple, a hip neighborhood on Indianapolis’s Northside. I visited it because it’s so colorful. I loved being able to shoot this ISO 400 slide film on a cloudy day — most slide films I’ve shot before are much slower, ISO 50 or ISO 100, requiring slower shutter speeds and a steadier hand.
I also shot some of this roll on a bright, sunny day in downtown Fishers. This was the last time I shot any film there before I lost the job that brought me there five days a week. I hated that long, tedious commute and don’t miss it. There’s no good way to get to Fishers from anywhere. After you’re there, though, it’s not too bad.
The Provia 400X kept on delivering. Just look at those blues and greens.
Here’s a quick look down one of Fishers’ few remaining original downtown streets. I showed you some of them not long ago in this post. I’m sure that in the next few years this will all be gone in favor of urban density. I shot this in late October, just as the trees were beginning to turn. We had an unusually warm early autumn, which delayed the onset of color. But when it came, it came fast and intense. The trees were largely bare after just a couple weeks.
The 35-70mm lens’s macro mode let me get right up on some of the leaves.
Provia 400X’s speed let me experiment with a few shots inside. The subject isn’t terribly interesting but the colors are spot on with reality — after I Photoshopped out a green caste that the ambient incandescent lighting imparted.
I tried a bathroom selfie. My black hoodie was a bit of a stretch for the Provia, even with 240 watts of light burning right over my head.
I also made a quick trip to The Ruins at Holliday Park in Indianapolis. I just love that place. I need to go photograph it proper one day and show it to you. This one photo will have to do for now.
My other slide-film experience has been a single roll of Velvia 50 and a whole bunch of Ektachrome E100G. The Velvia is super ultra saturated, which would be fun sometimes but isn’t my style most of the time. The E100G is nice stuff but a little too blue. This Provia really hits a sweet spot for me: realistic but rich color rendition.
Fujifilm doesn’t make Provia 400X anymore, and remaining stocks are all past their use-by dates. This roll was expired, but Stephen obviously stored it properly and it performed as new. This is very nice stuff and it’s a shame it’s discontinued.