Film Photography

Shooting the 135mm f/2.8 MC Auto Sears lens for Pentax K mount

When you buy old cameras, as I do, you frequently get lenses with them. When you’re lucky, you get a really good one, like the time I got a 50mm f/1.4 Rokkor lens with a Minolta SR-T 202 body attached, for something like 30 bucks. That was a good day.

More often, however, you get third-party lenses. I’ve lost track of how many Vivitar lenses I’ve owned, for example. These lenses are decidedly a mixed bag: some are crap, most are so-so, and a few are surprisingly good. In contrast, lenses from the camera maker are usually good to great.

A number of lenses for the Pentax K mount had Sears branding on them. Sears, the once-great department store, bought them from overseas lens manufacturers. A Sears lens could have been manufactured by Ricoh, Cosina, Tokina, or others.

I forget how I came to own this 135mm f/2.8 MC Auto Sears lens. It might have come with the Pentax KM I bought from my old friend Michael many years ago; there were a lot of lenses in that camera bag. Based on the lens’s design and markings, and some Internet sleuthing I’ve done, I am guessing that Tokina made this lens.

I came upon it the other day, realized I’d never used it before, and decided to try it on my Pentax ME. I’m not sure what happened to most of the roll of Ilford Delta 400 I shot, but about a third of the images were so dark as to be useless. I hope my beloved ME is not developing a fault.

Fortunately, all of the images turned out fine from the Sunday morning our granddaughter came to visit. Here are the best of them.

At the shore

Based on these results, I’d say that this lens is optimized for portraiture. I shouldn’t be surprised; that seems to be the raison d’etre for any 135mm lens. Check out the blurred foreground in the photo below. That effect was a staple of these photos.

At the shore

It was a little tricky to focus with this lens in bright light as the focus patch tended to go black. When that happened, I guessed as best I could. That’s why the little dog is crisper than our granddaughter in this shot.

In the front yard

In this photo I was deliberately focusing on my wife’s face. The available light forced me to a wide aperture, which led to shallow depth of field.

With our granddaughter

I shot the rest of the roll at indiscriminate subjects just to see what turned out. This is the ash tree in our front yard. The blurred background is flat and lifeless, and contrast is poor. I had to boost contrast on all of these photos far beyond what I normally do after scanning negatives.

Car behind a tree

This lens is capable of good sharpness and detail.

Shed window

It would have been far wiser to test this lens making portraits. But I don’t make many portraits. This is the kind of photography I do, and no 135mm lens is suited to it. At least this 135mm f/2.8 MC Auto Sears lens handled well and is solidly built. Its built-in lens hood was a nice touch.

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Show me some leg

Show me some leg
Olympus OM-2n
50mm f/3.5 Zuiko Auto Macro
Ilford Delta 400
LegacyPro L110 B
2021

Before the Marion County Courthouse was torn down in downtown Indianapolis, statues of six Greek goddesses stood in that building’s tower. Someone decided the statues were worth saving. I know where three of them ended up: one in Crown Hill Cemetery and two in Holliday Park, flanking The Ruins. This is a detail of one of the statues at The Ruins.

This statue lost its head at some point; see the whole thing here.

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Film Photography

single frame: Show me some leg

Detail of a statue of a Greek goddess that used to stand in the former Marion County Courthouse.

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Film Photography, Photography

Family Christmas photographs

I shot my family’s 2020 Christmas celebration on film. I decided to do it when I stumbled across a roll of Kodak T-Max P3200 I forgot I had. I shot it in my Nikon N90s with the 28-80mm f/3.3-5.6G AF Nikkor lens attached. I developed it in LegacyPro L110, Dilution B, but I misread the Massive Dev Chart and developed it for a few minutes less time than specified. The negatives looked plenty dense, but when I scanned them on my flatbed, the grain was pronounced.

I decided to print them. I don’t have a darkroom; I just sent the scans to my nearby CVS pharmacy’s photo department. The paper they use in their machines is thin, nowhere near as sturdy as the stuff they used as recently as 10 years ago. But the prints looked all right. I laid them on the dining table with the Christmas tablecloth still on and photographed a few of them with my Canon PowerShot S95. Even rendered this way, you can see the huge, ugly grain in these photos.

These scans are straight off the scanner. No amount of Photoshopping made them look any better, so I quickly gave up. I did tweak VueScan’s settings to bring out shadow detail, however.

When that roll was done I wanted to keep going, but I was out of P3200. Then it hit me: I develop my own film now and can easily push process it. I had some Ilford Delta 400 in the freezer, so I thawed a roll, loaded it into the N90s, mounted my 50mm f/1.8 AF Nikkor lens, and set the camera to ISO 1600. I knew this stuff would push well because fellow photoblogger Alyssa Chiarello did it recently and got great results.

Ilford still prints developing instructions inside their film boxes. They listed a developing time in Ilfotec HC (their HC-110 equivalent, also equivalent to the L110 I use) for the film at 1600! I followed their instructions and got gorgeous negatives and the best scans my flatbed can deliver (which still aren’t great). They look better than the P3200 photos — the grain is smaller and much more pleasing. Delta 400 is a darn sight less expensive than T-Max P3200, too. I think I need never buy P3200 again — I’ll push an ISO 400 black-and-white film to 1600 instead. I had CVS print these scans, too.

This was fun, but I don’t see this experience leading me to print my work more often. I get it that a photograph is meant to be printed, a physical object. But I’m an online kind of guy and that’s the way I show 99% of my work. My wife prints family photographs all the time, and I figured she’d like to add these to her collection, so I gave them to her.

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Film Photography

A new (old) scanner

I’ve been unhappy with the 35mm scans my Canon CanoScan 9000F Mark II produces. They lack sharpness and shadow detail. I’ve done everything I can figure out in VueScan to make them better.

I’ve complained about this before, and reader P paid sharp attention. He contacted me recently to recommend a dedicated 35mm scanner he found used for a good price, refurbished, at KEH. I bought it straightaway.

It’s the Minolta DiMAGE Scan Dual II, which was manufactured in about 2003. This scanner’s maximum output is 2,820 DPI, yielding images of roughly 3680×2580 pixels. That’s nearly 10 megapixels, which is enough for anything I do with my images.

When it arrived, I quickly scanned a negative strip from a roll of Ilford Delta 400 I shot in my Olympus XA in December to make sure the scanner functioned. It did, but my scans weren’t sharp. So I tried again later with the same strip, digging into the manual and into VueScan’s settings to get focus right. I got very good sharpness that time.

I’m going to show you all four frames from both scanners. In each pair, the Scan Dual II scans are first and the CanoScan 9000F scans are second. I’ve tweaked both in Photoshop to my liking, within the limits of the scan — but the ScanDual scans didn’t need very much help. They are far better than the CanoScan scans, especially in contrast and sharpness. The contrast is apparent right off, but you need to see these scans at full size to appreciate the sharpness difference. To do that, click to see them on Flickr and then click them there to see them larger.

At McCormick's Creek State Park
At McCormick's Creek State Park
At McCormick's Creek State Park
At McCormick's Creek State Park
At McCormick's Creek State Park
At McCormick's Creek State Park
At McCormick's Creek State Park
At McCormick's Creek State Park

Even though the Minolta is 17 years old and relies on a USB 1.0 interface, I got scans faster than I ever do from the Canon. This is in part because VueScan was able to accurately detect frames in the Minolta, and it can’t in the Canon for some reason. I have to painstakingly select each frame before scanning.

The Minolta scans are far sharper than the Canon scans straight off the scanner. No amount of Photoshopping can make the Canon scans look sharp, while a tiny bit of unsharp masking makes the Minolta scans look great.

This scanner’s native software doesn’t work with Windows 10. Fortunately, VueScan recognized this scanner instantly and was ready in seconds to make scans from it.

I kept going, this time with a strip of color film. This is Fujifilm Superia X-tra 400, shot in my Olympus OM-2n using the 50mm f/3.5 Olympus Zuiko MC Auto-Macro lens. I sent this film to Fulltone Photo for developing and scanning. My scans from the Scan Dual II are first, and Fulltone’s scans are second. I adjusted VueScan’s settings as best I could but still got rather cool scans. So I adjusted white balance and a few other settings on them in Photoshop.

The Scan Dual II scans are not far better than the Fulltone scans. I rather prefer the color Fulltone delivered — but it could be that after all these years I’m just used to the color a lab’s Noritsu scanner delivers. Now that I’m looking at these again, the ScanDual scans might have a slight magenta cast, and removing it might help. Yet these scans are acceptable for the day I might choose to develop color film at home, or wish to rescan an old color negative.

Tree tunnel
Tree tunnel in autumn
Harvested
Harvested
Harvested by the barn
Barn in the harvested field
Abby and Amherst
Abby & Amherst

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Film Photography

Ilford Delta 400 in LegacyPro L110

I’ve had about enough of my scanner, a Canon CanoScan 9000F Mark II. Despite getting negatives with gorgeous density when I developed Ilford Delta 400 in LegacyPro L110, a Kodak HC-110 clone, about half of the scans look terrible. I used the Ilford data sheet recipe of Dilution B, 7:30 at 20° C. I made the photos in my wonderful Olympus XA.

I made these three images on a graffiti wall in Bloomington when I was there to walk in a park with my oldest recently. The tonality and sharpness are pretty good. These images needed very little post processing.

Sank
Superhero

On the way home I stopped in Martinsville to see an old friend, this brick road that was probably laid in the 1910s. It is the precursor to State Road 39, which is maybe 500 feet to the left, out of the frame. The bricks in the foreground look nearly three-dimensional, as if you can reach out and touch them.

Old brick road, Martinsville, IN

I went to McCormick’s Creek State Park to walk with my youngest. Thanks to COVID-19, I’m seeing my adult children in the outdoors whenever the weather allows it and I can get away. My scanner just couldn’t pull good detail out of the shadows on these negatives.

At McCormick's Creek State Park
At McCormick's Creek State Park

I had a chance to visit my favorite abandoned bridge on the way home. It was starting to get dark that gray afternoon and the XA gave me shutter speeds of 1/15 or less at apertures that would secure lots of depth of field. I backed off to f/5.6 as a compromise, but for some reason I got underexposed negatives. My first scans were so dark as to be unusable. I re-scanned these images, tweaking settings to bring out the shadows, and got images like this one. It’s better, but still not great.

Abandoned US 40 bridge

I have no idea what happened in this image, which I made at the Bloomington park. It’s grainy and not sharp, and the tones are flat. Maybe that reflecting mirror fooled the meter?

Switchyard Park, Bloomington

I finished the roll in downtown Zionsville. This is the best image from that little walk, technically. A couple other images have a more interesting composition, but I whiffed focus or shook the camera a little. It was a heavily overcast day and again I was getting slow shutter speeds at f/5.6. I’ve had great luck with the XA in crappy weather before, so I don’t know what happened here.

Jewelers

The Olympus XA is a never-miss camera for me, which heightens my disappointment in these images. The negatives look great, it’s just that my scanner isn’t getting the detail I know is there.

Stay tuned — a solution is on the horizon.

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Oops

Oops
Olympus XA
Ilford Delta 400
LegacyPro L110, Dilution B
2020

When I have film in a little camera like my Olympus XA, I tend to carry it with me everywhere I go. I had some Ilford Delta 400 in the XA when I visited my mom. We sit out on her patio next to a propane heater, which keeps us warm enough even when temperatures are in the 40s. We haven’t tried it yet with temperatures below 40. The propane heater wouldn’t be necessary at all were it not for COVID-19, of course.

Mom has a keen eye for nice things, and so she noticed my XA right off. As I showed it to her, I accidentally fired the shutter. The little orange button is so sensitive and easy to fire when you don’t mean to! This is a shot of the balcony above her condo, and the sky. I rather like how it turned out.

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Film Photography

single frame: Oops

A camera misfire that turned out.

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