Collecting Cameras, Film Photography

Expired film in a new-to-me old camera — what could go wrong?

It all started because I gave my 50mm f/2 SMC Pentax-M lens to my son to use on the Pentax K1000 I also gave him. I didn’t think I needed that lens anymore, as I own a 50mm f/1.4 SMC Pentax-M lens. How many 50mm primes does one need, anyway? But that 50/2 imparts a wonderful warmth on color film that the 50/1.4 simply does not. I came to miss that 50/2 look.

So I turned to eBay. I had my selection of good ones for very little money. Mine cost $20.

But while searching I also found a 50mm f/1.7 SMC Pentax-M lens. I’ve heard good things about this lens, but have never tried one. It is an optically better lens than the 50/2. So is the 50/1.4, however, yet in everyday shooting I prefer the look I get from the 50/2.

Would the 50/1.7 be more like the 50/1.4 or the 50/2? I decided to find out, since finding out would cost me just $40. It didn’t hurt at all that at that price the lens was attached to a Pentax ME body.

When the kit arrived I put some Kodak Max 400 through it. This film was left over from the end of my wife’s film-shooting days; the expiration date was October of 2007. I found it in the fridge, but I couldn’t say for sure it had always been there.

So: I put film of iffy provenance through a new-to-me old camera which could have any number of faults. At least the lens was obviously clear and clean, and its aperture and focus rings functioned properly. It was the only variable in the equation that I felt sure about!

The results show the muted colors and pronounced grain of poorly stored old film. So this wasn’t the best test roll to show the 50/1.7’s capabilities. At least the ME body appears to be functionally sound where it counts: the meter and the shutter both seem accurate.

I’ve been taking long walks a lot more lately, trying to regain some lost physical stamina and drop a few pounds. My wife shared her two-mile neighborhood loop with me. This fire plug is on it.

Plug

That loop takes me down an old alignment of State Road 334, past a fallen State Right-of-Way marker. I photographed it twice, once wide open and once stopped down to the minimum aperture the poor light would allow. It’s hard to tell for sure because of the expired film’s condition, but it looks like this lens may be capable of some lovely bokeh.

ROW

ROW

I forget where I made this leafy photograph, but it, too, suggests that this 50/1.7 is a lovely performer. Next time, fresh film for sure.

Leaves

I also took a walk through Indianapolis’s Broad Ripple neighborhood one morning before meeting a colleague for coffee. I loved how the sun played across this terraced garden.

Sunlight

I also strolled through Daubenspeck Nature Park on Indianapolis’s far Northside one day before stopping by my mom’s nearby home for a cup of coffee. I’d never been in there before and didn’t know it had lovely views.

Daubenspeck

Just for giggles I shot this on my desk at work. Every time our young company reaches a milestone, or when an individual participates in a key project, a Lego is issued to commemorate it.

Legos

Last and least, this Zionsville cop car with lights flashing. I had stopped at my nearby Dunkin’ Donuts for coffee on my commute, and a community event there had the chief of police shaking hands with folks. The car was probably supposed to announce his presence, but rather it made me wonder if a crime had gone down at the Dunk.

Popo

I don’t need this lens. But since I’m doubling down on my Pentax SLRs, both screw- and K-mount, I might as well own the trifecta of 50mm SMC Pentax-M lenses. And the Pentax ME body this lens came with worked fine, except for a shutter button that sticks the first time you press it after you turn the camera on. Since I already own (and love) a like-new Pentax ME, I’ll probably send this one out for CLA and to get that shutter button repaired and then give it to my son. If he’s anything like his old dad, he’ll like the ME better than the K1000 too.

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Nikon F3, 35mm f/2.8 AI Nikkor
Kodak Tri-X (very expired)
2017

I’m giving myself a short break from blogging this week by running nothing but single-photo posts. They’re fun and fast to write and will let me keep to my self-imposed six-days-a-week posting schedule. I know the world would not end if I took a legitimate break and let the blog lie fallow for a week. But I want to keep my solid unbroken posting streak!

I’ve spent most of my spare time lately doing the last home repairs and painting the last couple rooms so that I can put my house on the market. And this past Sunday I preached my first sermon in church! That took considerable time in study and preparation. And my new job (at which I’ve worked three months now) is fabulous but consumes considerable energy. And the commute still stinks.

And then in the middle of all this the hard drive on my main computer failed, as I said on Friday. For years I’ve used a tool called Second Copy to shadow my files to an external drive, so I lost no files. But doing a clean install of Windows 10 on a new hard drive turned out to be frustrating and time consuming. Using my laptop I loaded a bootable Windows 10 installer onto a thumb drive I had lying around. I booted my main machine to that thumb drive and the installer fired right up. It could see the new hard drive, but insisted that there was no valid partition on it.

With lots of help from the Internet, I spent hours troubleshooting. I have good hardware and command-line skills, but nothing I tried worked. I was about to give up and go buy a new computer when I read a side comment at the end of a long forum thread, where a woman said she got around this problem by running the installer from a different thumb drive. I didn’t understand why that would work, but I’d exhausted all other options. And $8 for a new thumb drive is way cheaper than buying a whole new computer. So I bought a new thumb drive and put the Windows installer on it.

It worked, lickety split. Voodoo, I tell you, voodoo.

I hadn’t yet finished installing all of my software when I dismantled my office last weekend to paint it. That took the computer out of commission yet again, as I use it in that office. And so all posts last week and this week have been written on my laptop, where I lack my photo library, my scanner, and all my photo software. I have negatives to scan, photos to share, cameras to review — but it will all have to wait until my backlog of other priorities clears and I can get my main computer fully set up again.

So enjoy the photos this week!

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Shooting the 80-200mm f/4.5 SMC Pentax-M Zoom lens

Owning Pentax film gear appeals deeply to my inner tightwad. Bodies and lenses usually go for less, and often for far less, than their Canon and Nikon equivalents. And the lenses are (usually) so good. As a result, I own more Pentax gear than any other kind.

So I reach for my Pentax gear most often when I have a specific shooting need, such as low light or distance or macro. So it was in Cincinnati recently. I took my 50mm f/1.4 SMC Pentax-M lens for the available light of the American Sign Museum, and my 80-200mm f/4.5 SMC Pentax-M Zoom lens for the Cincinnati Zoo.

80-200mm f/4.5 SMC Pentax-M Zoom

The tl;dr, especially for those of you poised to pooh-pooh this lens for not being a prime, is that it’s a pretty good performer. Would primes along this zoom’s range perform better? I’m sure they would. But in each shot it took me only a second to push or pull the zoom ring to the right focal length. Try that with a bag full of primes.

Cincinnati Zoo

At 5 3/4 inches from mount to tip, and a half-inch or so longer when focused to infinity, this is a lot of lens to mount to a body as compact as my Pentax ME. It’s not terribly heavy at about 20 ounces, but it made the camera front-heavy just the same. It’s solidly built of all metal (with a rubber zoom grip). The zoom ring has great heft as you push and pull it. It feels like quality. My only beef with the lens’s build quality is that the aperture ring feels thin and tinny inside as you twist it through the crisp detents.

This lens is adequately sharp. The forums say it’s a little soft wide open, but I never saw any of that. What I do know is that all the images on this roll of Fujicolor 200 ran uncharacteristically cold, and I had to warm them up in Photoshop. And a couple of my images show a wisp of purple fringing.

Cincinnati Zoo

It was a chilly but bright early-spring afternoon and many of the animals were not out. Those that were just wanted to lounge quietly in the sun.

Cincinnati Zoo

It made for easy, if not terribly interesting, photography: zoom in, frame, and click. Little animal motion to contend with.

Cincinnati Zoo

You might remember this photo from a few weeks ago, and that I couldn’t remember which camera and lens I used to shoot it. I’ve figured it out: the Pentax ME and this zoom.

Kitchen window

Yep, this zoom delivered this lovely swirly bokeh. (On expired Kodak Gold 400, no less.)

Victoria at Northgate

So this lens is a keeper. I’ll probably use it once every blue moon, but when I need it I’ll be very glad I still have it.

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Front Yard Tree

Front yard tree
Nikon F3, 35mm f/2.8 AI Nikkor
Kodak Tri-X (very expired)

love the dark mood in this shot. The tree-branch canopy makes my neighborhood feel so foreboding.

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Photo: Front yard tree.

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Very expired Tri-X of unknown provenance on Expired Film Day

March 15 was Expired Film Day. I prefer my film to be fresh. But when fellow photoblogger (and EFD instigator) Daniel Schneider sent me two rolls of expired Tri-X to shoot that day, I went all in.

Daniel hand-rolled this Tri-X from a 100-foot box he came upon. He didn’t know how old it was and expressed concern about how it had been stored, so he recommended shooting this ISO 400 film at at ISO 100 or maybe even ISO 50. That said a lot — Tri-X is a mighty resilient film. Stored at room temperature, well-usable images can be made from it for decades. Stored cold, it behaves like new virtually forever.

I made time on Expired Film Day to shoot just one of the rolls. I used my Nikon F3 and my 35mm f/2.8 AI Nikkor lens, which is a great combo for walking around and photographing whatever I find, which is what I did. I still worked in Zionsville then, so I went over to Lions Park and photographed the Little League practice diamond. This is my favorite photo from the roll.

Home Plate

I shot this roll at ISO 100. Every photo was underexposed. When I shoot the other roll, I’ll shoot it at ISO 50.

Hoop

Still, I like the dystopian look of these photographs.

Lion

I also walked through the Village in downtown Zionsville as I burned through this roll.

Closed

Ooo, a little sprocket ghosting in this photo of Main Street.

Zionsville

This photo’s composition is terrible, but I love the way the light plays across the building. MOBI was my previous employer; I left there late in March to join a new company as Director of Engineering.

MOBI

I finished the roll with a couple quick shots at my desk. I seem always to have a couple rolls of film here either waiting to go into a camera or waiting to be mailed to the lab.

Film cans

One last shot, of the lamp next to my monitor. I love the ragged edge at the bottom, an artifact of this being the last shot on the roll.

Lamp at the tail

I’ll be back for Expired Film Day in 2018. Maybe I’ll find something off-the-rails expired, like Ansco All-Weather Film from 1965 or Kodak Vericolor III from 1982.

 

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Southern Fancy Boutique
Nikon F3, 35mm f/2.8 AI Nikkor
Kodak Tri-X (very expired)

March 15 was Expired Film Day. More about that tomorrow, but here’s a photo from downtown Zionsville that I shot on a roll of very expired Kodak Tri-X.

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Photo: Southern Fancy Boutique.

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