After I got outstanding results from Ilford’s classic FP4 Plus black-and-white film (photos here), earlier this year in my Olympus XA, I wanted to try it again.
The kind people at Analogue Wonderland sent me another roll to try, in exchange for this mention. They sell more than 200 films from around the world! That includes all of the classic films from Ilford and Kodak plus all the fun new films from small and boutique brands. And they ship just about everywhere. Get your Ilford FP4 Plus from them here.
I hadn’t used my Nikon N90s in a while so I got it out and mounted the basic but fun 28-80mm f/3.3-5.6G AF Nikkor lens. Nikon included this lens with most of its consumer SLRs in the early 2000s. I got mine when it came with a used Nikon N65 I bought. Except for some barrel distortion on the wide end, easily corrected in Photoshop, it’s a good performer.
That lens weighs just seven ounces, which is great, because the N90s is a large, heavy semi-pro body. Read my review of it here. This “gelded” lens lacks an aperture ring, limiting the camera to Program mode for exposure.
I left this kit in a drawer at work over several weeks and took it out for a photo walk whenever I could get away at lunch. As you can see in the photos above, FP4 Plus does a great job rendering clouds in the sky. But as I shot this roll, summer faded into autumn. In Indiana, that often means more cloudy than sunny days. The FP4 Plus delivered a great range of tones in all weather.
One of my pet peeves with some slower-speed black-and-white films is a tendency to blow highlights. FP4 Plus has never done that to me. It returns good detail for me even in strongly reflected sunlight.
Swings at Lugar Plaza Olympus OM-1, 50mm f/1.8 F.Zuiko Kodak ColorPlus 2019
Now that we’re into November I’m thinking about this blog’s traditional end-of-year posts, one of which is the ten images I like best that I made all year. I may have made more images in 2019 than in any other year, but I’m a little disappointed that I’ve made few that satisfy me deeply.
As I upload my work to Flickr, I add the few I like best to an album I call Portfolio, which you can see here. My ten 2019 favorites will come from these. This image, of a newly installed public swing in front of the City-County Buidling in Downtown Indianapolis, is in that album but won’t make the ten-favorite cut. I like the almost 3-D effect of the swing canopy jutting forth from the plane of the City-County Building exterior, though.
Lime scooters Nikon N90s, 50mm f/1.8 AF Nikkor Ilford HP5 Plus 2019
I’ve ridden Lime scooters a lot since the first of August when I strained a tendon in my hip. I had been taking the stairs up to my office every morning, twelve flights, as a form of exercise. I suspect that because of an old knee injury my form was bad, leading to the tendon strain.
At first, I could barely put weight on my right leg. For about eight weeks I minimized walking and stairs, which allowed for some healing but not enough. My doctor sent me to a physical therapist, who has given me some great exercises that are moving the healing needle a lot faster. I’m able to walk around Downtown as I want to now, and even take some stairs, with only light residual pain.
But the Lime scooters were zippy fun while I was riding them. The only trouble is that to go six blocks costs north of two bucks. That adds up fast.
Kodak’s first Retina camera was introduced in 1934, kicking off a long line of fine 35mm cameras over the next 30 years or so. I’ve long been interested in trying an early Retina, and so I was pleased when this 1939 Kodak Retinette II (type 160) was donated to the Jim Grey Home for Wayward Cameras.
Even though this is a Retinette and not a Retina, it used the same chassis as the Retinas of the time. In fact, except for trim differences it is identical to the 1941 Retina I (type 167). Mine has a 50mm f/3.5 Kodak-Anastigmat lens in a Compur shutter with speeds from 1 to 1/300 sec. You can also find Retinette IIs with a 50mm f/4.5 Kodak Anastigmat and a Gauthier shutter with speeds of 1/25 to 1/125 sec.
As you can see from how nicked up the finish is, mine has been well used. I was very happy to find that everything seemed to work. The cocking lever is firm, the shutter button pushes properly, and the shutter sounded good on all speeds. All the controls (focus, aperture, shutter speed) moved easily.
My Retinette II measures distance in meters. I’ve seen other Retinas and Retinettes with scales in feet, but I don’t know if the Retinette II could be had that way. The frame counter atop the camera counts up, so after you load film set it to 1. There’s a mount for a cable release next to the shutter button. There’s also a tripod mount on the camera bottom.
If you like Retinas and Retinettes, check out my reviews of the Retina Ia (here), Retina IIa (here), Retina IIc (here), Retinette IA (here), and Retina Reflex IV (here). Or check out all of my camera reviews here.
Unfortunately, the lens is hazy. I gently wiped the lens to see if it was just coated in schmutz, but no dice. It’s always a crapshoot whether haze is going to be a problem — I’ve shot some ugly glass and gotten fine results. So I loaded a roll of Agfa Vista 200 and went to town.
It was a problem this time.
Thank heavens for Photoshop and its Dehaze adjustment, which made these photos usable. Not perfect, but usable. The photo above is the best of the bunch. To save the one below I ended up overcooking the sky.
But them’s the old-camera breaks. Let me get right to my real gripe with this camera: its itty bitty viewfinder. It’s hard to see through, hard to be sure the camera is level, hard to be sure you’re looking through it straight on. When I framed this shot, the big monument was centered in the viewfinder.
I have a lesser gripe with this Retinette: the position of the metal pointer against which you set focus. For landscape photos, it’s essentially underneath the lens. You have to turn the camera over to set focus. Its position is much more useful for portrait photos.
Other than that, I enjoyed shooting this Retinette. I took it to work and left it in my desk over the next couple weeks. On days I decided to step out for lunch, the Retinette came along. Closed, it’s small enough to slide easily into my back jeans pocket, where it rode undetected until I wanted it.
I took it to all of the places I normally go around Downtown Indianapolis, shooting four or five photos an outing until I exhausted the roll. Given the bright sunshine I made most if not all of these photos at 1/100 or 1/300 sec. at f/8 to f/16. Such settings are probably this camera’s sweet spot anyway.
Rewinding the film isn’t complicated. You’ll find a lever on the back below the winding knob. Move it to the left and the rewind knob turns freely.
I was a little sad when I’d finished this roll in the Retinette II. Despite my two gripes, I very much enjoyed pocketing an 80-year-old camera for Downtown photo walks, and was impressed with how sturdy and solid all of the controls were after this many decades. I hoped that the lens’s haze would not affect the photos. Sadly, it did.
One of my Flickr followers saw my photo of this camera, where I noted the lens haze. Turns out he has experience with this camera and told me exactly how to remove the front element for cleaning. It doesn’t sound too hard. So maybe this Kodak Retinette II will live to shoot again in my collection.
If you like old film cameras, check out all of my reviews here! To get Down the Road in your inbox or feed reader, subscribe here.
Park Olympus OM-1, 50mm f/1.8 Olympus F.Zuiko Kodak ColorPlus 2019
When I was a kid in the 1970s, downtown in my hometown was full of neon signs. Many of them, like this one, did mundane jobs like point people to parking. As a kid the neon helped me feel that downtown was alive and vital and important. The backlit plastic signs that slowly replaced them seemed so banal.
This old-style neon sign keeps doing its job on a parking garage in Downtown Indianapolis. I’ve parked in this garage before, many years ago. I had frequent business in the building next door, and they validated my parking. Unlike most Downtown garages, you don’t park your car yourself. You hand your keys to an attendant who gives you a receipt and parks your car for you.
Analogue Wonderland provided me this roll of Kodak ColorPlus in exchange for this mention. Buy yours from them here.