Film Photography

Shooting the 35mm f/2 SMC Pentax-FA AL on the Pentax ME

I bought this autofocus 35mm f/2 lens hoping it would make my digital Pentax K10D SLR into a useful kit. But that combo and I just didn’t bond. I thought maybe, since this lens has a usable manual-focus ring, it might be good on my Pentax film SLR bodies. So mounted it to my Pentax ME to see what it was really capable of.

Looking out

In retrospect I should have shot a film I know very well, like Fujicolor 200, for a more confident evaluation. Instead I shot Eastman Double-X 5222. I had just shot a roll of it in my Canon EOS 630 (as part of Operation Thin the Herd) and wanted to stay in that groove. It’s still enough for me to declare a verdict: this lens is pretty good, delivering great sharpness and smooth bokeh.


Just look at all the detail in the back of this little reader’s head. If you’ve read this blog for a while you might recognize it as the little reader at the James Whitcomb Riley gravesite in Crown Hill Cemetery in Indianapolis.


I also brought the camera to church one Sunday and made few inside photos after service ended. I have shot this scene a couple times recently — I feel like there’s a good photograph in it, but I haven’t found it yet.

West Park CC

When I evaluate these photos on their merits, I see fine sharpness and detail. So then why do I feel so lukewarm about this lens?


It’s probably because it was the single most expensive photographic purchase I’ve ever made. I forget exactly what I paid but it was about $250. (Ok, so I’m the last of the big spenders.) For that kind of money I want this lens to absolutely sing.


And it just didn’t. I could get a manual-focus 35mm Pentax lens for my film bodies for a lot less money and be just as happy with it, I’m sure. I think that’s what I’m going to do, because I find 35mm to be such a useful focal length on a 35mm SLR body.

And with that, my Pentax K10D DSLR experiment comes to an end. I just can’t find a solid purpose for it in my gear stable. I’ll be selling it, this 35mm lens, and a 28-80mm zoom lens I bought for it, on eBay soon.

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Collecting Cameras, Film Photography

Operation Thin the Herd: Canon EOS 630


Auto-everything film shooting isn’t normally my bag. I’m more a match-needle, twist-to-focus kind of guy. But even I have to admit, sometimes there’s charm in letting a camera do the grunt work.

Canon EOS 630

This is a very early EOS camera, dating to about 1989. I’ve only shot this camera once before, that time with the pictured 35-80mm lens. I shot my former favorite (now discontinued) b/w film, Arista Premium 400.

Barber Shop

I reached for black-and-white film this time, too: Eastman Double-X 5222. But I used my sweet little 50mm f/1.8 Canon EF II lens.


It was gray and cold most of the time I had film in the EOS 630. I’ve never shot Double-X in those conditions and I was surprised by how muddy everything turned out.


These photos are from Flowing Well Park on 116th St. in Carmel. That bridge there carries 116th.


I got a little sun one afternoon and in a spare 30 minutes I took the EOS 630 out on a walk around downtown Fishers. I’ve photographed this area so much over the last year that if you were to look through the photos you’d watch the area change rapidly. It’s heavily under construction. New buildings go up all the time.

Downtown Fishers

Which means parking is becoming a problem. Fishers is solving it with parking garages. I’m not a fan.


The EOS 630 kept metering for the shadows, I guess, because the highlights were nearly washed out. Tweaking exposure and contrast in Photoshop helped a little. And lest you think that it’s only new buildings in Fishers, a few of the old houses do remain, tucked into alleyways and along side streets.

House in old Fishers

One old house was converted into a little tea room. This is its gate.


To see more photos from this camera, check out my Canon EOS 630 gallery.

I wasn’t enamored of the EOS 630 the first time I shot it. But I’ve used several more auto-everything SLRs since then, enough to know that this really is a pretty good tool. Focus was always right and exposure was at least good enough. I wished that the body were a little smaller and lighter, like the later EOS Rebel cameras. If I have to shoot a camera this bulky, I might as well reach for my semi-pro EOS A2e. It’s a much better camera. And for that reason, this EOS 630 must go. There’s room for at most one EOS SLR in my collection.

Verdict: Goodbye

I’m selling some very nice cameras from my collection. See them here.

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Canon EOS 630, 50mm f/1.8 Canon EF II
Eastman Double-X 5222

I took the EOS 630 all over, shooting whenever I had a little time and good enough weather. I hadn’t been to Crown Hill Cemetery in a while so I made some photographs over there. This low retaining wall borders the military portion of the cemetery. That 50/1.8 resolves pretty well on the Double-X.

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Film Photography

single frame: Wall


Film Photography

Father-son photographic bonding

My son Damion texted me before Christmas: “Dad, while I’m home on break, I’d love it if you could teach me how to use one of your film cameras.”

0mK56inSon, you could not have asked your old dad for anything better.

I had visions of us taking a photo walk together, maybe through Crown Hill Cemetery or Broad Ripple. Father and son, walking, chatting, shooting, bonding. Alas, temperatures hovered around zero all Christmas week. It was weather fit neither for man nor for aging mechanical photographic equipment.

So instead I loaded some Tri-X into my Pentax KM, mounted my sublime 55/1.8 SMC Pentax lens, and let him shoot around the house. The all-mechanical KM seemed like a great way to introduce him to the mechanics of photography, given its match-needle metering.

I explained about aperture and shutter speed and depth of field. I explained about film’s light sensitivity, the ISO scale, and exposure latitude. I showed him how to focus, match the needle, and activate the shutter. I gave him a couple composition tips. And then I let him go.

Damion and Pentax KM

I tried not to hover so he could just wander about and expose whatever subject seemed interesting. Like father like son: we both love to just follow our noses. Here are a few of his photographs:


I love how he experimented so freely, yet he never left our family room. He shot all 36 frames within 200 square feet! I enjoyed finding that he captured his old dad responding to comments on his blog. Not everything he shot turned out as he envisioned, he told me. But he was satisfied that some of it did.

When he was done shooting I asked if he’d like to take a camera and some film back to Purdue with him. “Well, sure! If you don’t mind,” he said. I did mind about my KM and that 55/1.8 — I use that combo often enough that I’d miss it. So I handed him my Pentax K1000 and my 50/2 SMC Pentax-M lens. This combo had extra significance because his mom, who was a professional photographer when we met, used her own K1000 and 50/2 to photograph our family while we were married.

I also gave him a couple rolls of fridge-fresh Agfa Vista 200 and encouraged him to get out when the weather was nice, walk in the park or the woods, and photograph whatever he found to be interesting. I told him that if he enjoyed it and wanted to keep going, I’d let him keep the camera and lens — after I send them to Eric Hendrickson for a mechanical overhaul. I said that the gear would come back in like-new condition, ready for 20 or 30 years of pleasure. He was suitably impressed.

I’m dying to hear whether film photography “takes” in him!

Film Photography

Shooting Kosmo Foto Mono

When Kosmo Foto announced its first film, Kosmo Foto Mono, last year I was among the first to preorder. Stephen Dowling, the man behind Kosmo Foto, has been a longtime friend to film photography and to this blog. I was very happy to support his venture and try his film!

This ISO 100 black-and-white negative film is an existing emulsion, repackaged for Kosmo Foto. Dowling hasn’t been forthcoming about what film this is, except to say that he’s shot it for years and loves it.


My Olympus XA was sitting on my desk when my order arrived, so I loaded a roll right into it. And then Margaret and I spent the following weekend in Chicago. The XA spent the whole weekend in my inside coat pocket — except when I got it out to shoot a scene.

I see why Dowling loves this film: it gives a wonderful classic black-and-white look.

Looking up from Daley Plaza, Chicago

This gray, dim weekend presented quite a challenge for the XA on ISO 100 film. I have a pretty steady hand and can dip down to around 1/15 sec. handheld without camera shake — but even at a shutter speed that slow the widest I opened that lens was f/4. My in-focus patches were correspondingly shallow. To compensate, I mostly chose distant subjects and focused at infinity. It worked out. Just look at all that great contrast! And while the film’s grain is detectable, it’s not pronounced.

Macy's Chicago at Christmas

I felt emboldened to try some street photography. I use that term loosely: I was on the street, there were people, I made some photographs. I focused on the built environment and waited until the arrangement of people on the street was not uninteresting.

Macy's Chicago at Christmas

This is my favorite Chicago street shot. I wanted the fabulous Oriental Theater sign in my frame, and aligned it roughly on a vertical rule-of-thirds line. Then I put the crowd’s faces on a horizontal rule-of-thirds line. It really worked out.

Chicago street scene

I shot about half of this 36-exposure roll in Chicago, and the rest closer to home. The grounds of the former Central State Hospital for the Insane in Indianapolis is near where I go to church. The Christel House Academy charter school was built on the grounds a few years ago. The mural on the wall reads LOVE, but the film had trouble picking up the V and especially the E.

L O something something

Here’s my church, West Park Christian Church, in its context: an Indianapolis neighborhood built around the turn of the 20th century. The church building is steps off the National Road.

West Park Christian Church

Looking out from the church building’s steps, here’s Addison Street. Indianapolis’s old neighborhoods all have names; this one’s is Hawthorne.

Addison Street, Indianapolis

Where Hawthorne is a working-class neighborhood, you’ll find central Indiana’s well-to-do in the village of Zionsville. Its charming main street is lined with little shops and restaurants and even one little hotel.

Brick Street Inn

Any time I’m in the village with a camera I photograph the Black Dog Books sign.

Black Dog Books

Shooting in poor light as I did, Kosmo Foto Mono rendered moderately lit areas well but tended to lose detail in the shadows. I’d like to shoot my next roll on a bright day to see how it behaves. Other old-school contrasty films I’ve shot, such as Fomapan 100 and Kentmere 100, have tended to blow out highlights in bright light. I’ve learned to meter for the highlights to compensate. That’s what I’ll try with Kosmo Foto Mono, too. I look forward to it.

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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

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