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.

Image
Camera Reviews

Nikon F2AS

As a longtime camera collector, I seldom shoot the same camera more than one roll of film in a row. I was hankering to get to know a single camera well, figuring it would improve my photography. When this Nikon F2AS, arguably the best all-mechanical 35mm SLR of all time, fell into my hands, I knew I had that camera.

Nikon F2AS

Introduced in 1977, the F2AS was the final elaboration on the original 1971 F2. It came with the DP-12 viewfinder head, which features center-weighted through-the-lens metering. Nikon called their metered heads “Photomic,” and while earlier Photomic heads used match-needle systems, the DP-12 uses LEDs to show exposure. + appears when the shot is more than one stop overexposed, +o when it is up to one stop overexposed, o when it is properly exposed, o− when it is up to one stop underexposed, and − when it is more than one stop underexposed. Two SR44 batteries power the meter. Everything else about the F2AS is mechanical; you can use this camera fine without any batteries as long as you guess exposure yourself.

Nikon F2AS

The F2AS is as bulletproof as any other F2, and works just the same. But this one received extended service from known F2 technician Sover Wong. It included some new parts, all new foam seals, and a complete cleaning, lubrication, and adjustment. It should last the rest of my life!

This camera, as well as a number of AI and AI-s Nikkor lenses, have been gifts to my collection from a particularly generous benefactor. I’m truly blessed.

By the way, if you’re into Nikon SLRs also see my review of the F2A (here), the F3 (here), the FA (here), the N2000 (here), the N60 (here), and the N90s (here). Or check out all of my camera reviews here.

I have shot this camera extensively, with many lenses and films. Here’s a selection of the photographs I like best that I’ve made with my F2AS. This is a grand door at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Indianapolis, on Ilford Delta 400 and a 35-70mm f/3.3-4.5 AI-s Nikkor lens. The Nikon elite soundly pan this lens but, except for some barrel distortion at the wide end, I love it.

St. Paul's Episcopal Church

The Nikon F2AS is large and heavy, but I am built sturdily and it seldom fatigues me even after a long day slung off my shoulder. I made this photo in the Bethel United Methodist Church cemetery in northwest Indianapolis on expired Kodak Gold 200 with the 55mm f/2.8 Micro Nikkor lens. This is someone’s grave marker.

Expired

To activate any F2’s meter, you pull the wind lever out. This brings up my only beef with any F2: that lever sometimes pokes into my forehead. Here I put that 35-70mm zoom on again and loaded some expired Kodak Tri-X 400 for a walk through Indianapolis’s South Broad Ripple neighborhood. This is Locally Grown Gardens, which sells seasonal produce.

Locally Grown Gardens

Especially given my F2AS’s expert CLA, every control on this camera works with satisfying heft and precision. I photographed this spotlight on a 1950 Hudson Commodore with a 50mm f/2 AI Nikkor lens on expired but always cold-stored Kodak Plus-X.

1950 Hudson Commodore

This Ford Falcon’s rear quarter is captured with that 50/2 lens on Kodak T-Max 400.

Falcon Corner

Collectors prefer the 50mm f/1.4 AI Nikkor to the 50/2 I own. Bah, I say; the 50/2 does wonderful work at a far lower cost on the used market. This is the Lilly mansion on the grounds of the Indianapolis Museum of Art on Kodak Ektar 100.

Evening light at Oldfields *EXPLORED*

Somewhere along the way I picked up a 135mm f/3.5 AI Nikkor lens. With Fujicolor 200 on board, I aimed it at this statuette on the grounds of the Indianapolis Museum of Art. The lens delivered fine sharpness and bokeh with a slight swirl to it.

Studying the map

The sheer volume of Nikon gear I own gives me great versatility in so many situations. One long winter I experimented with long indoors exposures in available light, as with these old vacuum tube boxes on my coffee table. 55mm f/2.8 Micro-Nikkor on Fujifilm Neopan 400.

Tubes

I’d never shot Fujifilm Velvia 50 before, so I put a roll through the F2AS. Here I used my 135/2.8 lens again.

Red tree parking lot *EXPLORED*

The 55/2.8 Micro Nikkor is a fine lens for walking-around photography. I made this photo in the military section of Crown Hill Cemetery in Indianapolis on Kodak Ektar 100.

Military cemetery

This is one of my favorite places for photography. I brought my son along one day and he made this portrait of me with the 50/2 lens on Fujifilm Neopan 100 Acros.

Me at Crown Hill

For more photos, see my Nikon F2AS gallery.

This Nikon F2AS performed wonderfully with any film I threw at it and any of my lenses attached. I thought I’d really miss aperture-priority shooting, my favorite way to fly. But with every roll of film I put through the F2AS, the easier it became to quickly set both aperture and shutter speed. And otherwise, the F2AS always quickly disappears in my hands and becomes an extension of my eye. It doesn’t get any better than that.

If you like old film cameras, check out all of my reviews here!
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Collecting Cameras, Film Photography

Film cameras photographed with a film camera

Thank goodness winter is over. The long, severe winter we suffered severely curtailed my photography and made me plenty sour. At one point I got desperate and searched the house for subjects. Cameras are in abundant supply, so I put several on my coffee table and photographed them.

Ilford Delta 400 film was in, and a 50mm f/2 AI Nikkor lens was on, my new old Nikon F2AS. Because it was a gray day, diffuse light entered the nearby picture window. I opened the lens wide, creating a very narrow range of sharp focus. I found the results to be interesting and pleasing. In particular, I enjoy how you can see the tabletop woodgrain only in front of the camera. I also enjoy extrapolating the sharp-focus plane from the in-focus camera details. That’s easier to do when you view these photos at larger sizes; you can do that by clicking any of them to view them on Flickr.

I keep meaning to shoot my Olympus Trip 35 again. Maybe it can accompany me on a road trip this year. It should be a great camera for capturing landscapes.

Olympus Trip 35

I’ve bought a few other Kodak Retina cameras, but after buying this highly satisfying Retina IIa I don’t need to buy any more. Unlike the Retina Ia, its viewfinder is usably large and it features a rangefinder.

Kodak Retina IIa

I managed to get only parts of the upper-left corner of my Argus C3 in sharp focus. When I started collecting again several years ago, the C3 was on my short list. I own three now, but their odd usability makes me unlikely to shoot them again.

Argus C3

I own two Yashica TL-Electro bodies, and both of them suffer from sticky shutters. The other body’s shutter always sticks, but this one’s suffers only at slow speeds, and only sometimes. So this is the body I’ll eventually shoot with.

Yashica TL Electro

I enjoyed shooting this Ansco B2 Speedex a couple years ago and intend to use it again. Too many medium-format folders from the last century use that infernal discontinued 620 film. The Speedex takes takes widely available 120 film, which is why I bought it.

Ansco B2 Speedex

I want to shoot the Agfa Clack again, too. I had such fun with it the last time I used it. It, too, takes 120 film.

Agfa Clack

My Konica C35 is a sweet little 35mm rangefinder. I’d like to shoot with it again, too.

Konica C35 Automatic

I have so many cameras I’d like to use again that I could keep myself busy for a few years doing it. But this year, I’m committed to the F2AS. Expect to see more and more photographs from it.

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