Sometimes I shoot the same things more than once with different cameras and films because I know the composition works. Recently I shot a scene with my Argus Argoflex Forty on Kodak Ektar 100, a few days after I shot it with my Olympus OM-1 and 50mm f/1.8 F.Zuiko lens on Kodak ColorPlus. Here are the two photos.
It’s remarkable to me how different these two photographs look even though they’re of the same thing.
First I see how the Argoflex Forty’s 75mm lens (for 620 film) is longer than the 50mm lens (for 35mm film) on the OM-1, which creates the effect of the copper-roofed Columbia Club building appearing to be different distances away.
The 1×1 and 3×2 aspect ratios also give different impressions of the scene.
The day I went out with the Argoflex Forty the sun was fully out, while the sun was behind a cloud at the moment I made the photo with the OM-1. This certainly influenced the way these lenses and films rendered the scene’s colors.
But those lenses and films have their own characteristics regardless of the light. I find ColorPlus to yield far warmer earth tones than Ektar under any circumstances.
I have no conclusions to draw. I just find this interesting.
Where I work now, I have budget to take my team somewhere fun every few months. This isn’t uncommon in the software industry. It’s supposed to be a time for team bonding. After 30 years I could live without any more outings. But the young people who report to me are still enthusiastic about it. Fortunately, I have a delightful team and we know how to have fun together.
The weather was good, so we went to the zoo. I brought my Pentax ME with my big 80-200mm f/4.5 SMC Pentax-M zoom lens attached. Kodak Portra 400 was inside. This lens was made for trips to the zoo.
The ME isn’t enough body for this long, heavy lens. My fingers had to grip it hard. My larger Pentax KM would have been a better choice from a handling perspective. But it can’t do aperture priority, as my ME can, which would have slowed me down and perhaps made me miss some photos. But also, I still haven’t had the KM repaired after I dropped it on its Operation Thin the Herd outing. The ME is my only working K-mount body right now.
This is only my second experience with Kodak Portra 400 (first here). I like it a lot better this time than last. These colors are terrific. I’m leading with some birds because they’re so colorful, but the Portra beautifully handled the muted, neutral colors that are so prevalent there, too.
This post is sponsored by Analogue Wonderland, who make film photography fun and accessible for everyone.
You’d think I would have shot Ilford’s FP4 Plus by now. It’s a traditional-grained ISO 125 film, much like Kodak’s lamented, discontinued Plus-X, which I loved. Also, Ilford films are easy to buy in central Indiana given that their US distributor, Roberts, is located here. I can walk into their store and buy any film Ilford makes.
But it wasn’t until the nice people at Analogue Wonderland asked if I’d like to write some sponsored posts for them in exchange for some film from their extensive selection that I thought, “Here’s my chance to finally shoot some Ilford!” FP4 Plus was at the top of my wish list.
As much as I miss Plus-X, I’m not going to compare the two films. It’s been overdone. Search “Plus-X vs. FP4” and prepare for the link avalanche. No, I’m going to evaluate FP4 Plus on its own merits, through the lens of my Olympus XA.
FP4 Plus is a very good medium-speed black-and-white film. Its blacks are inky rich and it authoritatively captures a full range of middle tones. Best of all, it does not tend toward blown highlights like so many other ISO 100-125 black-and-white films I’ve tried. I’m looking at you, Kentmere and Fomapan.
Even in mixed lighting, FP4 Plus delivers the details. Its grain is almost undetectable, it’s so fine. It leads to delicious sharpness.
The only time I wasn’t thrilled with FP4 Plus was on a particularly gloomy day. An ISO 400 film would have been a better choice, but FP4 Plus is what I had in the camera and so I shot it. This photo conveys the feel of the day all right, but lacks detail in the deepest shadows.
I plowed ahead shooting on this dim day. I had to run an errand in Lebanon after work, so I photographed around the town’s square. You can drive only one way down this alley.
The original Boone County Jail is now a bar and restaurant. You can have dinner in one of the cells.
This seriously old house is about a block off the square.
Down another side street off the square is the First Baptist Church. Just look at the great tones and all that detail!
FP4 Plus is a lovely, lovely film. I regret not trying it sooner. I need to always have some cooling in the film fridge.
I made one more experiment scanning negatives on my CanoScan 9000F Mk II and its bundled ScanGear software. This time I tried scanning black-and-white medium-format negatives.
I hope to start processing my own black-and-white film, especially in medium format, this year. I don’t shoot as much medium format as I’d like because processing and scanning costs about $17. That’s a buck and a half to two bucks per frame! Processing and scanning my own will manage medium format’s costs better.
I went back to 2016 to find some images I made with my Yashica TLRs, a Yashica-12 and a Yashica-D. These cameras have wonderful lenses that make the most of whatever film I put behind them. Here is a scan I made of a scene on the square in Lebanon, Indiana, on Kodak Tri-X.
Here’s a crop of my scan at 100%. I scanned at 2400 dpi, by the way, and applied unsharp masking and other tweaks in Photoshop until the image was to my liking. That’s some pretty good detail right there.
Here’s the scan Old School Photo Lab delivered, after I tweaked it in Photoshop to my liking. Both my scan and Old School’s scan are crops of the original image to the interesting part of the scene. My scans are about 5200 pixels square, give or take, while Old School’s are slightly off square at 4832×4760 pixels.
Here’s my scan of the Boone County courthouse in Lebanon’s square.
And here’s Old School Photo Lab’s scan. Either scan is acceptable. I like the tonality in my scan a little better as it feels more realistic to me. The Old School scan looks to be a bit sharper.
The next two images are from my Yashica-D on Fujifilm Neopan 100 Acros. I could have done a better job of cleaning minor dust marks off my scan, which is below. It’s otherwise a perfectly usable scan.
Here’s Old School Photo Lab’s scan. At blog sizes, they’re hard to tell apart. Both images are crops of the original frame, by the way.
These two images are from the far-northwest corner of Indianapolis, which is quite rural. Here’s my scan of a cemetery that lies along the road above.
Old School Photo Lab’s scan appears sharper — compare the grass in both scans. But either scan is eminently usable for my purposes.
I am pleased with my scans. I would use them for any of my usual purposes.
These experiments, and your comments on them, have taught me some key techniques. First, thanks to your advice I’ve turned off all the built-in image improvements in ScanGear and scan at as close to 4800 dpi as I can. Second, I’ve learned enough about the Amount, Radius, and Threshold settings in Photoshop’s Unsharp Mask filter to sharpen my images acceptably.
I see I’ve still much to learn about how to look at a photograph and see its details. In these experiments I’ve studied my scans in far more detail than I’ve ever studied a photograph, and compared them in depth to the lab scans, and thought about what I like in a scan. I realize I need to study far more photographs to learn how to see their details and decide what I like.
I also now realize just how much the quality of a lab scan might have affected my views of various cameras, lenses, and films, and how excellent scans might have enabled the praises I heaped on particular gear or films.
I feel like a man who thought he’d climbed a mountain, only to find that he had scaled but a foothill to see the real mountain emerge from the mist.
Encouraged by fellow photo-blogger Dan James, I carried my Canon PowerShot S80 around with me everywhere for a few weeks. It was my primary camera for a couple years ending in 2010 when I got my PowerShot S95, the camera I’ve used more than any other ever.
The S80 is chunkier than the S95. It seemed giant in my pocket compared to the S95. Funny, because I’d call a film camera this small a marvel of miniaturization and brilliantly pocketable.
The S80 also lacks the S95’s ability to directly dial in common focal lengths like 28mm, 35mm, 50mm, 85mm, and so on. I didn’t realize how much I love that feature of my S95 until I didn’t have it on the S80. It led me to just shoot at the default 28mm most of the time. That leads to stretched proportions on deep subjects like my car.
The S80’s color that impressed me. Even on this dreary day it managed to make what color was present look good.
My poor S80 isn’t without troubles. Just look at all the fringing among the branches at the top of this photograph of the Maker’s Mark distillery. Beneath that sci-fi sky, the S80 captured great color and clarity.
Check the upper right of this image — it’s out of focus. I found this on many shots, and I suspect that the lens has become misaligned.
It also happened in this portrait shot of a Bardstown, KY, door. The entire top of the image is soft.
I tried the camera’s built-in black-and-white mode for this photo of construction near where I work. It’s okay.
Shooting some early spring blooms, I was reminded that the S80’s macro mode struggles to lock focus unless it is at minimum zoom, 28mm.
As with every camera, you just learn to live with its limitations. So when I want macro, I zoom all the way out.
The S80 shone brightest outdoors at middle distances. Its lens is plenty sharp and contrasty.
The S95 is a better camera and the one I’m going to keep reaching for. But even if I didn’t own the S95, my S80’s probable lens misalignment consigns this otherwise decent camera to the bin.
That’s the building in which I work, there across the pond. My desk is near one of those windows and has an unobstructed water view. I gather that there was some consternation among the longtimers that this prime location went to the new guy.
There’s a walking path all around the pond, accessed through the building’s back doors. With afternoon temperatures in the low 50s now, it’s often just warm enough for a walk. When my schedule allows it, I’ll make two loops of one mile each. The hard part is avoiding the geese, who think this is their turf and hiss at me as I walk by.