Film Photography

Storefronts on Mass Ave

I had an errand to run Downtown along Massachusetts Avenue, or “Mass Ave,” as everybody here calls it. This diagonal Downtown street is loaded with hip restaurants, bars, and shops. I loaded some Ilford FP4 Plus into my Yashica-12 and brought it along. I walked up and down Mass Ave photographing storefronts.

I developed the roll in L110, Dilution B, and scanned the negatives on my Canon CanoScan 9000F Mark II. These are easily the best results I’ve ever gotten from home developing and scanning. I got exposure right in the camera, developing led to negatives of good density, and repeated practice with the VueScan scanner software is starting to pay off. I’ve shot a fair amount of FP4 Plus over the years and finally it’s looking like I expect it to, compared to the results I got from the pro labs I used to send it to.

The Rathskeller is technically on Michigan Street, but its imposing entrance is fully visible to and accessible from Mass Ave. This building is also known as the Athanaeum and, as the sign over the door says, Das Deutsche Haus. Built in the late 1800s, it was originally a social club for German immigrants. Today it’s a restaurant, beer hall, and coffee shop.

The Rathskeller

The rest of these images are not as architecturally interesting. Over the last 20 years or so, entire blocks of Mass Ave have been demolished so enormous apartment and condo complexes could be built, with retail on the ground floor. Silver in the City, a kitshcy gift shop, is in one of the early-20th-century buildings that remains.

Silver in the City

Global Gifts is a few doors down, in the same building. It’s a non-profit organization that sources its items ethically from around the world.

Global Gifts

In the same building as the previous two businesses, Three Dog Bakery has been around for at least 15 years now. I remember when they opened — I thought this business surely couldn’t last. Home-baked dog treats? Really? They have several locations today.

Three Dog Bakery

I worked Downtown the first time in 1996-97, when Mass Ave was a very different place, not yet hip and cool. It was just starting to recover from a period when it was Indianapolis’s Skid Row, and many of its businesses remained from that era. I don’t know how long The Frame Shop has been here, but it strikes me as a 1990s-era Mass Ave business.

The Frame Shop

Lots and lots of bars line Mass Ave now. This one opened a couple years ago, replacing a longtime Mass Ave bar called the Old Point Tavern. It was one of the last old Mass Ave businesses to throw in the towel, and I miss the place. When I worked Downtown in the 1990s, I sat at the bar many a lunch hour in front of a bowl of chili. It was the kind of chili you might make for yourself at home. I didn’t make much money in those days, and the $3 (as I recall) bowl was a filling, delicious lunch for very little money. I miss the Old Point Tavern.

Tavern on the Point

I’ve never set foot inside the Burnside Inn, despite its inviting facade. It’s been open for only a few years, replacing a hair salon that operated here for a long time.

Burnside Inn

Nine Irish Brothers is a chain restaurant that opened in this new building some years ago. In this case, nothing was torn down to build this building — it was a green space. I’m sure some other building once stood here, but it was torn down long before I ever set foot on Mass Ave. Margaret and I have stopped in here a number of times because the Guinness is fresh and good.

Nine Irish Brothers

Finally, here’s my favorite Mass Ave bar, Liberty Street. They have the widest whiskey selection in town, and a massive mahogany bar. I’ve met my brother here for a tipple many a time. He lives just a couple blocks away, so it’s easy enough for him to get here!

Liberty Street

I hope I’m settling into a successful groove with my home developing and scanning. It’s been frustrating to have gotten such mixed results over the year and a half I’ve been doing it.

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Camera Reviews

Canon Snappy 50

The 35mm point and shoot was an exciting development in photography for the average person. When they first came on the scene in the early 1980s, 126 and 110 cameras abounded and Kodak’s Disc cameras were popular. Unfortunately, they delivered so-so image quality. 35mm film’s 24x36mm frame was larger than that of any of those films, and even a middling lens could result in good, sharp images at snapshot sizes and in enlargements up to 8×10. And besides, “the pros” all shot 35mm film. That wasn’t exactly true, but that’s what the average person thought then. It’s what I thought then. When I bought a new camera in 1983 for a trip I would take the next summer to Germany. I wanted one of the early 35mm point and shoots, specifically a Canon Snappy 50.

Canon Snappy 50

Canon’s Snappy cameras, the 50 and its little brother the 20, were the first point-and-shoot 35mm cameras I ever heard of, probably because Canon advertised them on TV.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t afford either camera. Dad had paid for the trip, which cost my working-class family a ton of money. He told me that if I wanted a new camera, I’d have to save my allowance and buy it myself. The Snappy 50’s street price was about $90 (about $250 in today’s money), and the Snappy 20 about $70 ($190). That’s not inexpensive: you could buy an entry-level Canon SLR body with a 50mm lens for about $120 then. My $5 weekly allowance, plus money I earned mowing neighbors’ lawns, was enough to buy me only a crappy 110 camera, a decision I’ve always regretted even though it was the best I could do. But I’ve never forgotten Canon’s first Snappy cameras, which is why I bought this Snappy 50. It’s just an old used camera today, so I got it for $20 shipped.

Canon Snappy 50

The Snappy 20 uses a fixed-focus lens, but the Snappy 50 offers autofocus. It is limited to two focus zones, though, one centered around 5.9 feet and one centered around 13.1 feet. It uses the narrowest aperture possible at each focus point for the greatest possible depth of field. The Snappy 50 uses a 35mm f/3.5 lens that stops down to f/16. The shutter operates from 1/20 to 1/500 second.

Canon Snappy 50

Atop the camera is a switch to select between ISO 100 and 400 films. The camera doesn’t read DX coding, which hadn’t been invented in 1982 when the Snappy 50 was new. Consumer color negative films were either ISO 100 or 400 in those days, so this limited range was fine.

Flash is off by default, thank heavens. When the red light blinks inside the viewfinder, there isn’t enough light, so turn on the flash by pushing out the orange slider on the front of the camera. It whistles while it warms up, which is such a 1980s sound! The light around back next to the viewfinder glows when it’s ready. The flash has a range of 5.2 to 14.7 feet at either ISO setting.

Two AA batteries power everything, and the camera won’t work without them.

Loading film was remarkably simple for its day. Pull the “Pull Open” block on the camera bottom to open the back. Then lay the film cartridge in on the left, stretch the film across to the red mark at the right, close the back, and press the shutter button repeatedly until the film counter reads 1. After you finish the roll, to rewind the film look for the film-roll symbol on the camera bottom. Above it is a button; press it in with a finger and hold it. Then with another finger, slide the lever above that button in the direction of the arrow and let go of both the lever and the button.

To shoot, open the lens cover with the lever on the side of the lens area. Then frame and press the shutter button.

If you like point-and-shoot cameras, also see my reviews of the Canon AF35ML (here) and Snappy S (here); the underrated Kodak VR35 K40 (here); the Minolta Talker (here); the truly crappy Nikon Zoom Touch 400 (here); the Olympus Stylus (here), Stylus Epic Zoom 80 (here), and µ(mju:) Zoom 140 (here); and the Pentax IQZoom EZY (here), IQZoom 170 SL (here), and IQZoom 60 (here). Or check out all of my camera reviews here.

I shot a roll of Fujicolor 200 in my Snappy 50 and sent it to Fulltone Photo for developing and scanning. Because this film looks great with a stop of overexposure, and because this was expired (though cold-stored) stock, I felt confident shooting it at ISO 100.

Stupid good

The Snappy 50 was pleasant to use. In the great point-and-shoot tradition, you frame and press the button, and that’s all. The camera winds to the next frame and you’re ready to go again.

Red car parked

The lens is sharp and the exposure system does a good job of reading the light even after about 40 years. Look at the good detail in this flowering tree.

Flowering trees

I really enjoyed the Snappy 50’s big and clear viewfinder. It turned out to be reasonably accurate, in that what I framed is more or less what the lens saw — except when focusing close, when parallax moved things I carefully centered in the frame up and to the left.

Cubs

I never figured out what to do with the Snappy 50’s long lanyard. I tried hanging it around my neck, but then the camera bounced off my chest with every step. When I slipped it across my torso, the camera banged uncomfortably against the bottom of my rib cage. In the end, I wrapped it around my hand three times and carried it that way.

In Starkey Park

Some point-and-shoots deliver dull, muted color on overcast day. I don’t know why, but that’s been my experience. The Snappy 50 was not so afflicted.

In Starkey Park

I enjoyed myself enough with the Snappy 50 that I laid in another roll and kept shooting. I used Ilford FP4 Plus, an ISO 125 film, on the ISO 100 setting. FP4 Plus has good exposure latitude, so the slight overexposure would be no big deal. I developed it in LegacyPro L110 (a Kodak HC-110 clone) and scanned it on my Minolta ScanDual II. Looking at the negatives, it looks like the whole roll is underexposed and overdeveloped. I’m still learning how to read my negatives so I could be wrong. But I had to do a fair amount of post processing to make these scans look okay.

I got it

I used flash on this photo, the only time I did. It lit fairly evenly, but of course it left shadows as on-camera flashes do.

In the kitchen

Processing the photos to bring out detail tended to bring out a fair amount of noise.

Road closed

Most photos had blown-out highlights. About 25% of the photos on the roll were so blown out, I couldn’t rescue them. I’m really bummed out about that. But I had a fine time with the Snappy 50 anyway.

Cemetery gates

To see more photos from this camera, check out my Canon Snappy 50 gallery.

The Canon Snappy 50 would have been a great camera for the average person in its day. It’s pleasant to use and it has a good lens. That’s the formula for a successful point-and-shoot camera right there, even in the present day.

If you like old film cameras, check out all of my reviews here!
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Electric

Power tower
Agfa Clack
Ilford FP4 Plus
LegacyPro L110, Dilution B
2021

I’m fascinated with the power lines that run through my neighborhood, and with this tower in particular. I’ve photographed it over and over. I still haven’t found the best composition involving it. I suppose I’ll keep trying until either I nail it or I move away.

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Film Photography

single frame: Power tower

A tower of power.

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No Outlet

No Outlet
Agfa Clack
Ilford FP4 Plus
LegacyPro L110, Dilution B
2021

Now that my new (used) dedicated 35mm scanner has solved my problem getting good scans of my 35mm negatives, I’m less satisfied with the medium-format scans my flatbed delivers. These scans are miles better than what my flatbed can deliver with 35mm negatives, but they’re still not great.

With this roll, I played around with VueScan’s built-in film profiles. VueScan has a paltry selection of them, far fewer than what rival SilverFast offers. There was no Ilford FP4 Plus profile, for example. But I tried the Kodak T-Max 100 profile, and it immediately balanced the contrast in these negatives.

The Clack is capable of better sharpness than this. No matter what I do, I can’t seem to get good sharpness from my flatbed. Could it be the device itself? Or is it the software; should I try SilverFast? Meh, bleh, what a pain. It’s just easier to send my film to the lab and let them deal with it.

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Film Photography

single frame: No Outlet

A sign I photograph a lot because it’s right by my home.

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Snowman

Olaf?
Agfa Clack
Ilford FP4 Plus
LegacyPro L110, Dilution B

2021

I seldom have nice things to say about living in this vinyl village. Here’s one nice thing: plenty of families here do fun things together, like build snowmen.

I suppose families are the whole point of neighborhoods like this. For far less than anywhere else in this surprisingly wealthy town, you can get your kids into good schools. This neighborhood overflows with children. In nice weather, lots of them play in their yards and sometimes in the streets. One family down the street wheels a portable basketball goal to the curb, and the kids shoot hoops for hours. Another family on my block rents a bounce house at least once a summer, which brings in kids from far and wide.

It reminds me a little of the neighborhood I grew up in. There were so many kids, the parents took to calling it Rabbit Hill. Families on Rabbit Hill weren’t nearly as well off as families in this neighborhood, so we didn’t have bounce houses or portable basketball goals. But we still made plenty of fun together. Those houses were cheaply built, as are these. It didn’t matter to us. It was grand to have so many kids to play with. I’m sure the kids here feel the same.

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Film Photography

single frame: Olaf?

A snowman in a neighbor’s yard.

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Mail station

Mail station
Agfa Clack
Ilford FP4 Plus
LegacyPro L110, Dilution B

2021

It’s useful to know which old cameras work well in the cold. It’ll be only a small, select group — old mechanical gear usually gums up when temps fall below freezing.

I took my Agfa Clack out to see how it performed. It went on two frigid photo walks after a snowfall. I have this Korean War-era, wool-lined Army trench coat, and I get it out when it’s either below zero, or below freezing and I’m going to be outside for a while. The Clack fit into the roomy side pocket. But that pocket isn’t lined. The Clack was only slightly warmer in it than it would have been if I had held it in my hand. Every time I got it out, it performed fine.

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Film Photography

single frame: Mail station

The mail station in my subdivision on a snowy day.

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