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

Shooting the 50mm f/3.5 Olympus Zuiko MC Auto-Macro lens on the Olympus OM-2n

All of the major SLR manufacturers made close-focusing macro lenses in 50 or 55mm focal lengths with maximum apertures ranging from f/2.8 to f/4. They won’t replace a 50mm f/1.8 lens for low-light shooting, but they’re a fine choice for everyday photography in good light. Most of their focus range is toward the close end. For non-macro work, you can just focus these lenses to infinity and go.

Olympus’s 50mm macro lens comes in four variations. I’m pretty sure the optical design is identical among them.

  1. Marked Olympus OM-System Zuiko Auto-Macro 1:3.5 f=50mm, single coated, silver-tipped outer ring.
  2. Marked Olympus OM-System Zuiko Auto-Macro 1:3.5 f=50mm, single coated, black outer ring.
  3. Marked Olympus OM-System Zuiko MC Auto-Macro 1:3.5 f=50mm, multi-coated, black outer ring.
  4. Marked Olympus OM-System Zuiko Auto-Macro 50mm 1:3.5, multi-coated, black outer ring.
OM Zuiko MC Auto-Macro 1:3.5 f=50m

Until recently I owned three of these lenses: two of the third type and one of the fourth. I passed the latter along to its next owner recently. Of the two that remain, the first came from the father of an old friend and it’s in mint condition in a hard case. The second one came from a reader who donated a great deal of Olympus OM gear to me this year. This lens looks like it got a lot of use.

I mounted this lens onto my Olympus OM-2n and took it out on some of my last bike rides in October, and on some walks around the neighborhood after that. I shot Fujifilm Superia X-tra 400 in it. Of course, it did lovely close work.

Leaves
Leaves
Rose

This lens tends to flare when you shoot into the sun. I rather like the effect in this photo.

Leaf flare

I enjoyed shooting other things with this lens because I could just leave it focused at infinity.

Barn in the harvested field
Suburban autumn
Autumn country road
Suburban autumn

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Tree tunnel in autumn

Tree tunnel in autumn
Olympus OM-2n, 50mm f/3.5 Zuiko Auto Macro
Fujifilm Superia X-tra 400
2020

It’s been about six weeks since my last bike ride. I don’t like to ride when temperatures are below about 60 degrees, which they have been except for one or two days during this time. When it looks like warmer days are over, I hang up the bike.

On my final ride of the season I brought my Olympus OM-2n along. One particular route of about eight miles takes me down some beautiful country roads here in southeastern Boone County. This tree tunnel is on one of those roads.

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Film Photography

single frame: Tree tunnel in autumn

A tree tunnel in rural Boone County, Indiana.

Image
Film Photography

Up close with the Olympus OM-2n

The fellow who gave me the Olympus OM-2n gave me another, so I put a couple rolls through to test it. The first roll was Kodak T-Max 400, which I showed you recently. The second roll was some Kodak Gold 400 expired since January, 2008, that I had lying around. I mounted a 50mm f/3.5 Zuiko Auto Macro lens that the fellow also gave me. This is one generous fellow.

What the heck is this?
Flowers up close
Flowers up close
Bee in the flower

These images look very good for film 12 years expired that was never stored cold. They needed very little post-processing. Color shifts are slight. Grain might be enhanced, but I never shot Kodak Gold 400 fresh before it was replaced by Kodak Ultramax 400 to know for sure.

Suncatcher
Ash leaves
High voltage

This 50mm macro lens performs beautifully. I own at least one more of them and have for years. This lens raises any color film above its station. This is also a fine lens for non-macro photography. Leave it focused at infinity for anything beyond a couple feet away. It makes your OM camera almost point-and-shoot simple.

The house across the street
Retention pond by the Interstate

The OM-2n is just a wonderful SLR. I’m smitten. My SLR loyalties have been to Pentax first and Nikon second. The OM-2n threatens to have Olympus usurp at least the #2 position.

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Film Photography

Kodak T-Max 400 in Adox HR-DEV

Into the tree tunnel

I still have a lot of Adox HR-DEV to use up after buying a small bottle to develop a roll of its companion film, Adox HR-50. I’m developing other films in it to see how it performs. I liked Arista EDU 200 (aka Fomapan 200) in it not long ago, so this time I tried Kodak T-Max 400.

I also took this opportunity to test a second Olympus OM-2n body given to me by the same benefactor who gave me the first one, as well as the Olympus OM-4T I recently shot. This very generous fellow also gave me a whole bunch of lenses and other OM gear. He hadn’t shot his OMs in a long time and he was ready for them not to take up space in his home anymore.

I mounted a large, heavy 35-70mm f/4 S Zuiko Auto-Zoom lens. It’s probably this hefty because of its fixed f/4 aperture — if I recall correctly, variable-aperture zooms can be made much smaller and lighter. Despite the weight, I slung the OM-2n over my shoulder and took it on a long bike ride.

To the left

HR-DEV is supposed to enhance sensitivity, better differentiating light from shadow. I don’t know if I see that; this looks like normal T-Max 400 to me.

High-powered cornfield

But I very much appreciated how sharp these scans were off my flatbed. They still needed a little unsharp masking in Photoshop, but far less aggressively than normal after developing this film in any of my usual developers.

Farmhouse on the hill

I finished the roll on a few walks through the neighborhood. What I especially appreciated about these negatives was how little Photoshopping they required to look good. About half of them needed only that touch of unsharp masking.

In the vinyl village

I made these neighborhood shots on full-sun days, and I think I detect the light areas being lighter than I’m used to with this film under these conditions. Or I could be seeing things.

In the vinyl village

Just a side note: it’s crazy to me how much of the sides and backs of houses you can see on any walk through this neighborhood, and how often windows are placed haphazardly on them.

In the vinyl village

If you look at these images at full scan size, which you can do by clicking any of them to see them on Flickr, there’s detectable grain here. But at blog sizes they look smooth enough.

In the vinyl village

Bottom line, this combination works. Don’t be afraid to try it if you, like me, have some HR-DEV to use up.

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Film Photography

Downtown Indianapolis after the protests

It would have been much better to share these photos closer to the day I made them, which was the first of July. The nationwide protests were still happening then, in the wake of George Floyd’s death in the hands of Minneapolis police.

I had been avoiding Downtown. But my work laptop quit working and corporate IT needed me to bring it in for repair. That meant a visit to our Indianapolis office in the heart of the protest area. I knew I’d be seeing my city all boarded up, so I took a camera. But I shot film, and film takes time, especially since I shot color and have to send it out for processing.

This is the building in which I work. It’s on both the Michigan and National Roads, better known as Washington Street in Indianapolis. Walking up to the building, I felt like I’d stepped into an episode of The Twilight Zone. I was saddened, and I felt a little anger deep down, both over the destruction and the generational, pervasive poor treatment of Black Americans that led to it.

After the protests

After IT fixed my laptop I walked up and down Washington for a few blocks. This is what I saw there.

After the protests
After the protests
After the protests
After the protests
After the protests
After the protests
After the protests
After the protests
After the protests

After seeing photos of colorful murals on boarded-up windows in other cities, the many bare boards on Washington Street surpried me. Maybe it’s the same in other cities, but nobody shows the unpainted boards.

After a few blocks, I turned around and walked to Monument Circle, the heart of Downtown.

After the protests
After the protests
After the protests
After the protests
After the protests

The southeast quadrant of the Circle was closed to traffic for the weekly summer farmer’s market. It is normally held a few blocks away on Market Street, between City Market and the City County Building, but street work there has moved the market to the Circle all summer. I felt encouraged to see it there. I’d seen a number of news photos of protesters on the Circle, including heartbreaking photos of a minivan driving right into some protesters. The farmer’s market felt to me like a reclaiming of the space for good, normal life.

Farmer's Market
Farmer's Market
Farmer's Market

I’m infuriated that as a nation we still don’t treat Black people with the full honor and respect due any human being. I hope these protests, along with those across the nation, cause us to finally face and change our shameful racist behavior.

Seeing my city like this was hard. But it’s even harder for my Black neighbors that they have had to live for so long with fear and anger.

Olympus OM-2n, 40mm f/2 Zuiko Auto-S, Fujifilm Fujicolor 200.

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