Sleeping angel

Sleeping angel
Olympus Stylus Epic Zoom 80
Kodak Tri-X 400
2017

Another frequent photographic haunt is the cemetery at Bethel United Methodist Church, which was founded in the 1830s in Pike Township, Indianapolis.

Film Photography

Photo: Sleeping angel in Bethel Cemetery

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World War Memorial

Indiana World War Memorial
Nikon F3HP, 50mm f/2 AI Nikkor
Foma Fomapan 200
2016

Film Photography
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Film Photography

Shooting Foma Fomapan 200

I guess lots of film photographers look down their nose at ISO 200 film. Get off the fence, they say: go ISO 100 for best sharpness in daylight and ISO 400 for low light. 200 is the ISO of uncertainty and compromise.

After having shot miles of inexpensive, highly available Fujicolor 200, I don’t understand the bias. There are absolutely times when ISO 100 or 400 is a great choice, but ISO 200 has delivered fine results for me time and time again.

I’ve been searching for an inexpensive everyday black-and-white film for a long time, and lately have been trying the Foma films. I tried Fomapan 100 first and liked it okay. Then recently I put a roll of Fomapan 200 through my Nikon F3 with my 50mm f/2 AI Nikkor lens attached

Lookit, lookit! Sharpness, clarity, detail, and a wide range of tones!! And glory be, it’s an ISO 200 film.

Meridian St.

I was mistaken in my Fomapan 100 review that all Foma films use classic grain structures, because Fomapan 200 is a tabular-grain film. Yet somehow, under some circumstances, it takes on a classic grainy look. The city shot above is sharp and clear, while my portrait of Margaret below shows a little of that wonderful classic grain. How does this film do it?!!?

Margaret

I shot most of this roll on photowalks with Margaret, including one to the war memorials downtown. Ever had a day when you couldn’t get a bad shot if you tried?

Iwo Jima

We also walked through the cemetery near my house. I just love the tones in this shot. I also got a lot of good sky with the Fomapan 200 despite not using a yellow or orange filter.

Thingy

I’ve shot the cemetery’s Liberty bell replica over and over and never get tired of it as a subject. The Fomapan 200 resolved it well. I shot this whole roll at ISO 200, but Foma claims that this film can be shot anywhere from 100 to 800 without changing anything about how the film needs to be developed. That would make this film hugely versatile, and I’m eager to try pushing it to the max when the light is low.

Pass and Stow

Here’s the housing for that Liberty bell replica, with some glorious sky backing it. I got this film on sale at Amazon and paid south of $4 for a 36-exposure roll. Freestyle Photo rebrands it as Arista.EDU 200 and sells 35mm 24-exposure rolls every day for $3.39, and 36-exposure rolls for $3.89.

Black-and-white film prices just don’t get lower than that. And this film’s value-to-price ratio is super high. Just look at how this stuff resolves detail!

Swans and Fountain

All of my gushing aside, the one criticism I’ve encountered around the Internet about Foma films is possibly iffy quality control. I’ve shot exactly two rolls of the stuff, both trouble free. That’s hardly a statistically significant sample, so all I can say is so far, so good.

I’m stocking up. Unless persistent quality issues crop up, I believe I’ve found my everyday black-and-white film.

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Hood ornament

Hood ornament
Pentax ME, 50mm f/1.4 SMC Pentax-M
Kodak Tri-X
2016

Old Cars, Photography
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Chrysler Airflow

Chrysler Airflow
Pentax ME, 50mm f/1.4 SMC Pentax-M
Kodak Tri-X
2016

Old Cars, Photography
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Camera Reviews

Kodak Six-20 Brownie

Somebody gave me this box camera, a Kodak Six-20 Brownie with an Art-Deco-inspired faceplate, a few years ago. The timing was bad: I had just decided to swear off 620 film and cameras. I had neither the patience to spool 120 film onto 620 spools, nor the willingness to spend 12 bucks and up for pre-respooled film. But a couple months ago I discovered a pile of eBay Bucks near expiration. And then I found a roll of Verichrome Pan in 620, expired in 1982, that those Bucks paid for. Free film!! So I dug out this old box.

Kodak Six-20 Brownie

Kodak puked out box Brownies by the legion during the first half of the last century. This model was made from 1933 to 1941. Original price: $2.50. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, that’s equivalent to $46 in 2016.

Kodak Six-20 Brownie

As box Brownies go, this one had some unusual features. Almost all the box cameras I’ve known come apart at the back for film loading and unloading. This one comes apart at the front. You pull out the winding knob, pull up on the knob that anchors the carry strap’s front end, and tug on the camera’s face.

The Six-20 Brownie has two apertures, controlled by the tab atop the faceplate. Down selects the larger aperture; use it for most shots. Up selects the smaller aperture; use it for extremely bright conditions such as beach or snow scenes. The camera also offers a single shutter speed plus timed exposures. The tab on the faceplate’s side controls it; pull it out for timed shots. I’m guessing that the shutter operates at somewhere between 1/30 and 1/60 sec., and the two apertures are something like f/8 and f/16.

And while the camera’s lens (a simple meniscus) is inside the box, an external lens focuses the camera for shots at beyond 10 feet. For shots from five to 10 feet, move the lever below the lens opening to move the external lens out of the way. Release the lever and the external lens springs back into place.

By the way, if you like old box cameras also see my reviews of the Kodak No. 2 Brownie, Model D (here) and Model F (here); and the Ansco B-2 Cadet (here) and Shur Shot (here). Or check out all of my camera reviews here.

This camera was filthy when I got it, so I cleaned it up as best I could. The pitted faceplate was beyond help. The viewfinders had gone opaque with crud, so I dismantled them and cleaned them. One of the mirrors was loose, so I superglued it back into place. Then I spooled in the Verichrome Pan.

I don’t know how this Verichrome Pan was stored, but it sure behaved like fresh film. This was the only shot affected by light leak. I wonder if it might have happened while I removed the film from the camera, as I fumbled it a bit and the end of the roll came a little loose for a half second. This was the last photo on the roll.

Mass Ave and a light leak

I don’t know why I persist in using box cameras to photograph distant subjects. They’re meant to take photos of Aunt Martha and the nephews at closer range. When I framed this, the main part of Leon’s filled the viewfinder. But I shot it from across the street. Oh, and by the way, I recently bought a suit from Leon’s. It was a great experience.

Leon's

I had the Brownie along one day when I took my son to dinner at an outdoor mall in Noblesville. Sharpness and contrast are pretty good here, despite a little haze in the sky around the tree branches.

Parked at the outdoor mall

A couple photos were pretty muddy. I worked them over pretty good in Photoshop to improve contrast. Here’s one of them, of the mural is on the back of the Indianapolis Public Schools administration building Downtown.

IPS mural

This was the muddiest photo of them all, of the three trees on the golf course behind my house. The front ash tree has been dead for at least a year; the bark is starting to fall off. Anyway, Photoshop restored reasonable contrast to this scene. At full scanned resolution, a little motion blur becomes apparent, convicting me of moving the camera slightly as I made this exposure. But at print size, you’d probably never notice it.

Golf course trees

To see more photos from this roll, check out my Kodak Six-20 Brownie gallery.

It’s charming to shoot with simple cameras like this Six-20 Brownie. Even when the results are so-so, it still always pleases me that I got images at all. It’s easy to forget that a light-tight box and the simplest of lenses — even a pinhole — will make an image. And these turned out pretty well. You’d never guess that I used film expired for more than 30 years.

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