Film Photography

Ferrania P30 Alpha in Rodinal

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.

Barber Shop
Garage
All locked up
Monon Coffee Co.
The Bungalow
Mpozi mural

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.

Monon bridge
The Bungalow
Bridge to Fresh Thyme

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.

Meijer

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.

Ring holder

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.

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State Theater

Tree blocking the State Theater sign
Minolta SR-T 101, 50mm f/1.7 MC Rokkor PF
Ferrania P30 Alpha
2018

Memo to cities everywhere: stop planting trees near your downtown walkways, as they block clear views of your classic architecture and signage!

This theater in my hometown of South Bend needs an owner and a profitable purpose. It is one of the last two remaining theaters of many that South Bend used to have; read about them here. And see a photo of this theater from when South Bend replaced its main street with a disastrous pedestrian plaza here.

Film Photography, Preservation, Road Trips

single frame: Tree blocking the State Theater sign

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DTSB on the river

Downtown South Bend on the river
Minolta SR-T 101, 50mm f/1.7 MC Rokkor-PF
Ferrania P30 Alpha
2018

On my visit to downtown South Bend I had a deep sense that this town has a lot going for it that they are not leveraging fully.

I don’t know how hard it is to run a medium-sized Midwestern city today. I know that in most of the Midwest, if you are not a major population center you are slowly losing residents to those larger cities. I’m sure South Bend is no different. I’m sure that makes is challenging as heck for city leaders to build on what’s good.

But my old hometown really does have lovely attractions. This view from the east bank of the St. Joseph River overlooks Seitz Park, which is at the southern tip of an island in the river. Beyond is the city’s low skyline, with some still-proud older buildings cutting a strong profile.

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Film Photography

single frame: Downtown South Bend on the river

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Film Photography

The Twyckenham Drive bridge in South Bend

Twyckenham St. bridge

Unless you kayak to work, it’s unusual to get to look at a bridge from underneath. But the Twyckenham Drive bridge in South Bend includes spans over not only the St. Joseph River, but bordering Northside Boulevard as well.

Twyckenham St. bridge

Built in 1929, this four-span open-spandrel concrete-arch bridge is one of South Bend’s many lovely bridges. Since I last photographed it, it underwent a restoration to replace the deck, repair piers and beams, and replace an aluminum railing with a period-correct concrete railing.

Twyckenham St. bridge

I was in town with my Minolta SR-T 101, on which was mounted a 50mm f/1.7 MC Rokkor-PF lens and in which was loaded Ferrania P30 Alpha film. I walked under the arches on Northside Boulevard and tried to find some interesting perspectives.

Twyckenham St. bridge

As you can see, the Twyckenham Drive bridge’s arches are interesting underneath because of their design. A solid arch would not offer so much to see.

Twyckenham St. bridge

I think I need more practice here. There have got to be some truly lovely patterns in this design. I just didn’t fully find them. But I enjoyed trying.

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Grand Trunk

Grand Trunk Western
Minolta SR-T 101, 50mm f/1.7 MC Rokkor-PF
Ferrania P30 Alpha
2018

I figured out how to read largely on my own starting at age 3. As we’d ride around in the car I’d read aloud the big signs. Mom said that the first one I read was the BUS sign at the Greyhound station.

I remember reading this one, too. The Grand Trunk Western railroad passes through my hometown of South Bend not far from the neighborhood where I grew up. Two bridges over city streets have the GTW name painted on them. I still love to see them.

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Film Photography

single frame: Grand Trunk Western

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Camera Reviews

Operation Thin the Herd: Minolta SR-T 101

State Theater

My Minolta SR-T 101 is from the first year or so of its 1966-75 manufacturing run, making it about as old as I am. It was a mighty advanced kit five decades ago and remains a competent machine today. I hope the same can be said about me.

Minolta SR-T-101

Before its turn in Operation Thin the Herd I’d shot this SR-T but once, and I was impressed with the sharpness, bokeh, and color its 50mm f/1.7 lens gave me on workaday Fujicolor 200 film. Really impressed. Wowed, even. Yet on that first outing I didn’t enjoy how heavy and clunky it felt.

Squirrel

This was the first old-school all-mechanical SLR I’d ever shot. My prior SLR experience was a Minolta X-700, an Olympus OM-1, and Pentaxes K1000 and ME. All of them were far more agile in my hand, even the K1000, which was closest in size and spirit to the SR-T.

Since then, however, I’ve experienced two dozen more SLRs, including early ones like the Pentax H3 and beasts like the Nikon F2. These experiences put the SR-T in proper perspective and let me use it with greater confidence and competence. On this outing, with Ferrania P30 Alpha loaded, it felt satisfying in my hands.

Distillery

When I put a battery in (an alkaline 625 cell), the meter needle jumped up and down, never settling in any light. My heart sank. I was so looking forward to trying this camera but I wasn’t willing to invest in sending it out for repair first. I know, I know, I can shoot Sunny 16 or use an external meter. But daggone it, onboard metering just makes an SLR so much more pleasant to use!

First Source

I asked about it on a forum I follow. One fellow suggested I remove the bottom plate (easy, just a couple screws) and make sure the wire was well connected to the battery compartment. I did, it was, and I figured I was out of luck. But when I screwed everything back together the meter gave consistent readings! Happy day! It read about a stop under, however. I set camera ISO to compensate for the meter’s underexposure and got to shooting.

Steps

I brought the SR-T along on a day trip to South Bend, my hometown. I haven’t spent much time there since my parents moved away four years ago, and I miss the place. Or at least I thought I missed the place. As I wandered downtown’s streets I encountered entirely too many men just hanging out on corners with nothing to do. Several of them approached me. I’m sure they would have eventually hit me up for money, but really, they mostly seemed bored and looking for human connection. I’d never experienced anything like it before in South Bend and it made me sad for the city’s current state.

No parking

I’m disappointed in how the P30 Alpha performed on this full-sun day. Images were so high contrast that subjects stood in full silhouette. Fortunately, in Photoshop I was able to coax out some shadow detail and tone down the highlights. Only a few photos couldn’t be made usable.

Jefferson Blvd. bridge from Howard Park

I didn’t think it through when I chose P30 Alpha. Testing old cameras is best done with forgiving films, which is one reason I shoot a lot of Fujicolor 200. That stuff can take a lot of abuse in exposure, processing, and scanning, and still return usable images. The P30 Alpha needs more careful handling in exposure and, especially, processing. My lab admitted that they did a lot of P30 when it was first released, but my roll was the first one they’d seen in a while. Perhaps they’ve lost the touch.

St. Joe River

But just check out the detail in texture in the St. Joe River above as it makes its way past the Jefferson St. bridge and the di Suvero sculpture. That lens’s excellent characteristics came through! And it did solid documentary work as I photographed this building that’s part of South Bend’s outstanding farmer’s market. Memo to other towns: study South Bend’s market and replicate it.

Farmer's Market

To see more from this camera, check out my Minolta SR-T 101 gallery.

This camera operates well within the typical mechanical-manual SLR idiom. I’m fluent in the idiom, and so in operation everything fell right to my hand. With a CLA that includes a calibration of the meter, this camera would be stellar.

Yet I’m not keeping it. I’ve already decided that I’m going to focus my SLR collection on Pentaxes and Nikons. If I get rid of none of those bodies I will still own a ridiculous number of SLRs, more than I can use. For an SLR from another manufacturer to stay in the collection, it has to have strong sentimental value or be head and shoulders better in some way than my best Nikons or Pentaxes. This SR-T 101 is very good. But it doesn’t clear that bar.

Verdict: Goodbye

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