Kodak Retina Automatic III
Kodak Gold 200

When you shoot black and white, do you look for different things from when you shoot color? I do. I tend to look for shadows and contrast when I shoot black and white.

When I came upon this scene, it said “black and white” to me. But I was shooting color film. So when it came back from the processor I used Photoshop’s black-and-white tool on it. I added a virtual blue filter to bring out the grain in the bench’s wooden slats.

Except for a little mottling on the wall under and behind the bench, the conversion turned out all right. That mottling isn’t present on the original color shot, which is here. More from this camera in a full review tomorrow!

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single frame: Bench



30th St. Bridge

The 30th Street bridge
Canon EOS A2e, 50mm f/1.8 Canon EF
Kodak Tri-X 400

The condition of this bridge breaks my heart a little. Built in 1907 and last rehabilitated in 1979, this concrete-arch bridge carries 30th Street over the White River in Indianapolis. But its railings are crumbling, and tall weeds grow through every crack in the pedestrian walkway.

I suppose a city the size of Indianapolis can’t perfectly maintain all of its infrastructure. But we are fortunate to have a number of ornate concrete-arch bridges in our city, and I wish they were first in line for maintenance.


single frame: The 30th Street bridge



Downtown Fishers

Downtown Fishers
Pentax KM, 55mm f/1.8 SMC Pentax
Ferrania P30 Alpha

Do people actually like apartments like these? I know I’m biased against new construction. I feel like it’s all made with Balsa wood and Elmer’s glue. Give me a sturdy older home any day. Except that within every older home lurks half-assed homeowner repairs and renovations that at some point you’re going to have to tear out and do right.


single frame: Downtown Fishers



Shooting Ferrania P30 Alpha

What a remarkable time for film photographers, with brand new film emulsions coming to market! And I was fortunate to be among the first to receive five rolls of the first production batch of one of those films: Ferrania P30 Alpha.


Ferrania was an Italian company that produced film from 1923 to 2009. For a few decades it was a 3M subsidiary. I shot some store-branded film as a kid where the fine print on the box said it was a 3M product. I never knew it was actually made by Ferrania.

In 2013 a new company took the Ferrania name, bought the old Ferrania plant, and started a Kickstarter to help fund the return to film. Their original goal was to resume production of an old color slide film, Scotch Chrome 100.

I was an early backer of the Kickstarter. And then Ferrania experienced a litany of woes that set their plans back for months that turned into years. The pushed through, and long story short, early this year they announced that their first product would be a black-and-white negative film to be called P30. Even better, backers would be given first dibs to buy some. I plunked my money down straightaway. How often do you get to try a brand new film?

This new film is, however, based on a movie film the old Ferrania used to produce, also called P30. And it’s lovely, with no discernible grain and blacks so deep you could just fall into them.


I shot the first of my rolls in my Pentax KM with the 55mm f/1.8 SMC Pentax lens on it. That 55/1.8 is an astonishingly good lens and was a great choice for putting a new film through its paces. Ferrania’s advice was firm: shoot at box speed. So I did.

Railroad Signal

I shot most of the roll on strolls through downtown Fishers, Indiana, where I work. The blazing sun was directly overhead — suboptimal conditions for any film. But P30 handled it all right. I did have to pull out some of the shadow detail in Photoshop. As scanned, the lenses in the blinkers above were completely black And the bed and nightstand in the photo below were largely hidden.

Bedroom Window

Actually, P30 biases toward highlights in a high-contrast situation. I couldn’t bring out any meaningful shadow detail in this photo of a wall light in my family room. Perhaps next time I shoot P30 I will use a camera with more sophisticated metering than the KM’s center-biased averaging system, and see if that helps.


But this characteristic leads P30 to create smashing shadows in daylight. Its low grain creates crisp lines.

In Direct Sunlight

Those shadows are so good! Here are some more for you to admire.

Bike Rack

I’m also impressed with the detail P30 captures. In real life those bricks are a deep red. This rendering of red as deep black appears to be characteristic. An orange filter would probably soften the effect. But here I rather like it.


And when you get a little bokeh with the P30, it is ultra creamy.

Twigs and Tea

And I adore the grays I get on mid-toned subjects. I did, however, have to tone the highlights way down to bring out the pavement markings.


When it comes to black-and-white film, I’m a Kodak guy through and through. I love T-Max and Tri-X. I’ll probably never get over Kodak discontinuing Plus-X. I’ve tried other black-and-white films, and with a couple rare exceptions I haven’t liked any of them.

I’m deeply impressed with Ferrania’s P30 Alpha. I am eager to shoot more of it, hopefully on an overcast-bright day to see how it handles lower-contrast situations.

This film is still experimental, however. Ferrania cautions shooters not to use motorized-winding point-and-shoot cameras, for example, as they’ve been known to break the film. And given the film’s cinema heritage, it requires specific handling. Finally, Ferrania recommends home processing of the film and favors D76 or D96; full details are on this pdf. But Ferrania has worked with a handful of labs worldwide in determining best practices, and for shooters like me who don’t process their own Ferrania recommends sticking to these labs. Fortunately, one of them is Old School Photo Lab, one of my favorites. That’s who processed and scanned this roll.

Meanwhile, Ferrania is still in line to create its color slide film, and I’m still in line to receive some as part of my Kickstarter reward. All kinds of goodness is yet to come!


Church bus

Church bus
Nikon N8008, 28-80mm f/3.3-5.6 AF Nikkor
Kodak Tri-X 400

I went on my first of three mission trips to Mexico 13 years ago, riding this bus nonstop from Indiana. We even slept, badly, on its cramped seats. But now this bus is discarded, moldering in a field.

Hazelwood church is in farm country about a half hour west of Indianapolis and a few minutes south of US 40. It’s a surprisingly large and active church for being so rural.


Photo: Church bus.

Camera Reviews, Film Photography

Nikon N8008

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I did not need another auto-everything 35mm SLR. But in what is probably my greatest guilty pleasure, which says something about my buttoned-down life, I really enjoy them. I’m no less devoted to my first love: all-manual, all-metal SLRs! Yet I was deeply tempted when I came upon this Nikon N8008 body at KEH for $13.

Nikon N8008

I resisted. But that afternoon KEH emailed me an offer of 12% off used gear and I was a goner. Twenty dollars shipped for a body that cost $857 new. Pennies on the original dollar! Now is the time to buy these higher-end auto-everything film SLRs. And the N8008 (known as the F-801 in most of the rest of the world) was higher end, as it rested just below the pro-grade F4 in Nikon’s pecking order.

Nikon N8008

Befitting its station, its specs are solid. They begin with a big, bright, high-eyepoint viewfinder, which means you can see through it perfectly even when you’re wearing glasses. It offers both matrix and 75% center-weighted metering. Its shutter operates from 30 seconds to 1/8000 second and it takes film from ISO 6 to 6400 (and it reads the film’s DX coding). It syncs with flash at 1/250 second. And common AA batteries power it all.

Nikon N8008

It offers all of the modern modes: manual, programmed, aperture-priority, and shutter-priority. But as you can see, it was designed before the mode wheel became idiom. You expect that from a camera made from 1988 to 1990. To set mode, you have to repeatedly press the Mode button and look at the LCD. It works fine and isn’t cumbersome. It just takes a minute to adjust to it.

The N8008 also offers depth-of-field preview, allows multiple exposures, and boasts a self timer that can take two shots in succession. And its focusing screens exchange. Three screens are available, including the matte Type B screen that shipped with the N8008. You could also get the gridded Type E screen and the microprism Type J screen.

This camera also takes most F-mount lenses. Nikon lens compatibility requires a secret decoder ring (Ken Rockwell keeps his up to date) but with a few exceptions and caveats (pre-AI lenses won’t mount, AF-S lenses won’t automatically focus, AF-G lenses work only in programmed or shutter-priority mode, the latest AF-P lenses won’t focus) you can use your legacy lenses on the N8008.

I considered mounting my 50mm f/2 AI Nikkor to this camera just to test that compatibility. The moment passed quickly, a fleeting shadow. I reached instead for my 28-80mm f/3.3-5.6G AF Nikkor, a “gelded” lens that has no aperture ring. The N8008 drives this lens beautifully in P (program) or S (shutter-priority) modes. Even though Nikon shipped this lens with bajillions of its entry-level film SLRs, don’t underestimate this solid performer.

I loaded some fresh Kodak Tri-X and went to work at home, right next to my easy chair. I’d just finished a finger of whiskey. Photograph drunk, Photoshop sober?

Empty whiskey glass

I stepped back and zoomed out, revealing this lens’s one major fault: barrel distortion at the wide end. I reduced the effect in Photoshop.

Illuminated whiskey glass

These well-made auto-everything SLRs appeal to me, I think, because I can get high-quality images with almost zero thinking. That’s not to say I don’t like thinking. I get full joy from shooting my manual-exposure, manual-focus cameras. But sometimes it feels good to let the camera do all the work for you, all the while leaving you confident of good results. And with the N8008, I could have full control if I wanted it.

I never wanted it on this test roll. Good thing, as the gelded lens sharply limited my options. But on a stroll down Zionsville’s Main Street I didn’t much care. I twisted in my zoom level, pressed the button halfway to focus, and then pressed the button the rest of the way to get the shot. With a loud zip, the camera wound to the next frame and I was ready to go again.

Black Dog Books

I did, however, fall pray to one pitfall of easy-peasy shooting: I shot indiscriminately. Lots of uninteresting photos was the predictable result. This post shares almost all of the photos I think have any merit from this 36-exposure roll.

Brick Street Inn

Here Margaret stands between our two Fords in the parking lot at work. I used to work not far from her workplace, a large suburban church where she’s in charge of buildings and grounds. She wears dresses on Mondays to remind her co-workers that she’s a woman after all, as otherwise it’s jeans and T-shirts because a Director of Facilities never knows when she’ll find herself cleaning up after a sick child or crawling around a failed baptistry heater.

Margaret on Dress Monday

My sons have always been curious about my cameras. When they were very small I used to get the boxes down from my closet and we’d play with them together, cameras strewn across the living room. As I got serious about my collection again in my 40s and began to shoot my cameras more, my sons often asked if they could shoot them too. Frankly, I wasn’t always thrilled to say yes. They showed no real interest in exposure and focus, so explaining it to them got us nowhere. I took to setting the camera for them, but they were often impatient as I read the light and guessed distance and all. But a camera like the N8008 is perfect for kid use, even if that kid just turned 18. It requires no explanation beyond “press the button halfway so it can focus and then the rest of the way to get the shot.” My son did that perfectly while we waited for dinner at a Perkins one evening.

Me, taken by my son

Finally, I took the N8008 along the day I visited this abandoned bridge. It’s the one that cemented my love of exploring the old roads, because finding abandoned infrastructure is strangely exciting.

Abandoned US 40 bridge near Plainfield, IN

The N8008 is not without its flaws. It’s a little heavy for all-day use. The loud winder was annoying. Autofocus is slower than on a modern camera. But so bloody what? I don’t shoot sports anyway. This camera worked great, full stop.

But I still own a Nikon N90s, also a wonderful auto-everything 35mm SLR. One does not need both cameras. One does not need a hundred cameras stuffed into every nook and cranny of one’s house, either, but that’s where one is despite ongoing efforts to thin the herd.