Film Photography

Very expired Kodacolor-X on 127 Day

My friend and fellow blogger J. P. Cavanaugh found a box of 127 Kodak Kodacolor-X moldering in his basement and gave it to me. This is an old color film; this particular roll expired in January, 1966. I shot it last 127 Day, which was July 12 (12/7 in European date notation).

Expired Kodacolor-X in 127

To get color images from Kodacolor-X, you need Kodak’s old C-22 chemistry. Unfortunately, that stuff’s been unobtainable for going on 40 years. Fortunately, you can develop any color film in black-and-white developers and get black-and-white images.

Nobody knows exactly how to develop old Kodacolor-X. Some say you should heat your chemicals to 102 degrees Fahrenheit, as you would C-41 chemistry. I don’t have a simple way to do that, so I skipped it. Some say you should just treat the stuff like Kodak Tri-X. That seemed simple enough, so I did that. I’m using up the last of my bottle of LegacyPro L110, which is a clone of Kodak HC-110. At 68 degrees, you develop Tri-X for six minutes in HC-110. I didn’t bother to check the temperature of my developer and adjust accordingly — I figured I was going to get faint, grainy images no matter what I did. I just went with six minutes.

The negatives looked almost like undeveloped film, although under strong light faint images were evident. I now feel certain I could have left this film in the developer for far longer than I did. Fortunately, my Canon CanoScan 9000F Mark II was able to pull images off the negatives.

Color film has an orange base, and you have to remove that color in your scanning process. I tried a bunch of options in VueScan before settling on scanning the negatives as color, as opposed to black-and-white — but choosing a black-and-white film profile, specifically T-Max 400. In VueScan, a “Negative type” setting of “TMAX CI = .40” looked best to me, so that’s what I went with. That setting instantly removed the orange mask.

Here are my two favorite images from the roll — not because the subjects are that interesting, but because they scanned the best.

McDonald's
B Dubs

The negatives curled laterally, which made them impossible to lay flat. Horizontal lines had a wicked curve in my scans. I had some success Photoshopping the curve away.

Tesla charger

I use a squeegee to remove water from my negatives. Unfortunately, this old film’s emulsion was fragile and the squeegee scratched most of the images. Lesson learned: skip the squeegee on such old film. A few images were so badly affected that I saw no way I could use Photoshop’s tools to remove the marks.

Denny's

I have mixed feelings about very expired film. On the one hand, I’m curious to see what kind of images it can create. On the other, I know that many variables play in wringing the best performance from the film. Film this old needs a lot more exposure than it did when new. Kodacolor-X was an ISO 80 film in 1966; I shot it at ISO 25, the slowest speed my Kodak Brownie Starmatic supports, to maximize exposure in my fairly crude camera. This is the only 127 camera left in my collection, so I had little choice but to use it.

Panda drive thru

When you have just one roll of an expired film, developing is a crapshoot. If I had four more rolls from the same batch, stored in the same way, I could keep tweaking my recipe and timing to wring the best performance from this film. But I had just the one roll, and this is what I got. Fortunately, every image was minimally usable.

Meijer

You never know how expired film is going to perform.

As you can see, I made these images in suburban strip malls. Several are within walking distance of my home. I would have liked to photograph more interesting subjects. But it rained off an on this 127 Day, and I had to rush through the roll in a dry hour when I could sneak away from work.

Get more of my photography in your inbox or reader! Click here to subscribe.

Standard
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.

If you’d like to get more of my photography in your inbox or reader, click here to subscribe.

Film Photography

single frame: Olaf?

A snowman in a neighbor’s yard.

Image
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.

If you’d like to get more of my photography in your inbox or reader, click here to subscribe.

Film Photography

single frame: Mail station

The mail station in my subdivision on a snowy day.

Image
Photography

Beautiful evening light on the Apple iPhone 12 mini

Great light on an evening walk

I took a walk after work the other day, the first time I had poked my head outside all day, and was pleased to find excellent golden light. I made a number of photos on that walk with my phone.

My new Apple iPhone 12 mini

I had recently upgraded my phone to the new Apple iPhone 12 mini. My iPhone 6s no longer held a charge all day, even after I replaced the battery early in 2020. Also, thanks to Apple’s planned obsolescence, my phone had taken its last major iOS update. In time, the apps I use would stop updating, and some would stop working.

A small rant: I was happy with my 6s. It did everything I need from a pocketable Internet device. I did not want a new phone. Apple’s latest iPhone features are interesting, to be sure, but I don’t need them.

I briefly considered chucking it all and getting a Google Pixel, a capable Android phone at a reasonable price. I also considered buying an iPhone SE, which has the same basic body as my 6s with up-to-date innards at a not unreasonable price. But then my carrier offered me a surprising sum to trade in my well-used old phone on any iPhone 12.

That brought the iPhone 12 mini into play. I dislike large phones — my one gripe with my 6s was its size. It took up my whole front pocket and could not be used entirely one-handed. The 12 mini is noticeably smaller than my 6s (though larger than my old iPhone 5) and is more comfortable to carry and use. It’s also less expensive than the full-sized 12 and the plus-sized 12 Pro.

Great light on an evening walk

But back to my walk. Whenever I unexpectedly come upon something lovely, I’m always grateful to have my iPhone in my pocket. All three of my iPhones have had smashingly good cameras — not perfect, but what camera is? As long as you have at least decent light and don’t mind its wide-angle ways, you can get the photograph.

Great light on an evening walk

You can pinch the screen to zoom the iPhone camera, but it’s a digital zoom. At phone screen sizes the zoomed images look all right, but at larger sizes fine details can be lost. I haven’t used my iPhone 12 mini enough to be sure, but it might yield better zoomed photos than any of my previous iPhones. The camera app now shows how much you’ve zoomed; this photo is at about 2x.

Great light on an evening walk

Here’s the same scene at 1x.

Great light on an evening walk

The iPhone 12 mini has a second camera with an even wider lens. The camera app shows it as “0.5x.” I’m sure this camera is most useful to photograph large groups of people. It’s hard to tell what the subject is in this photo, but at least the sky is dramatic.

Great light on an evening walk

I’m confident I could have made equally good photos with my 11-year-old Canon S95, and probably even better photos with my wife’s newer Sony RX-100. But neither of those compact cameras are as pocketable as my iPhone.

Great light on an evening walk

This photo has color that reminds me a little of classic Kodak color film. The iPhone 12 did a pretty good job of capturing the details of the branches.

Great light on an evening walk

Apple has improved its cameras, sometimes massively, with each generation of iPhone. I expect my 12 mini to get shots my 6s used to struggle with, especially in low light.

Get more of my photography in your inbox or reader! Click here to subscribe.

Standard
Camera Reviews

Minolta Maxxum 7000i

Minolta’s 1985 Maxxum 7000 broke ground as the first autofocus SLR with motors in the body. Nikon, Canon, and Pentax all soon followed Minolta’s lead, leaving the manual-focus era behind. Minolta wasn’t content to rest, however, and released an upgraded camera in 1988: the Maxxum 7000i.

Minolta Maxxum 7000i

The 7000i rounded off the 7000’s hard corners and redesigned the controls. It also improves the 7000 with a faster and more sensitive AF system, a top shutter speed of 1/4000 sec. (vs. 1/2000 on the 7000), and a faster film advance at 3 frames per second. Controversially, the 7000i introduced a new flash hot shoe that worked only with flash units designed for that shoe.

Minolta Maxxum 7000i

The 7000i also introduced Minolta’s Creative Expansion Card system. These are little cards about the same size as an SD card that control settings, add features, or let you store information about each photo such as exposure settings. This page describes all of the available cards. I’m sure some photographers used these cards extensively. But for the most part, these cards did not revolutionize photography. My 7000i came with a Portrait card, which controls depth of field in portraits to make subjects pop. I’ve not bothered to use it.

Minolta Maxxum 7000i

The 7000i offers the usual exposure modes: manual (M), aperture priority (A), shutter priority (S), and program (P). It reads your film’s DX code to set ISO, from 25 to 6400, but you can override it.

The 7000i offers exposure compensation of plus or minus 4 EV. You can also choose single-frame or continuous film advance. The 7000i also offers two focusing modes. Center mode focuses only at the center of the frame. Wide mode uses three focusing points: one at the center, and one left and one right of center.

The camera’s settings aren’t obvious, but they’re not hard to figure out. In short: the FUNC and MODE buttons access most options, and the ▲ button and the switch below the shutter button on the front of the camera let you cycle through those options. The LCD panel atop the camera shows your current settings. A small LCD panel inside the viewfinder shows aperture and shutter speed, plus a green dot when the camera has achieved focus and a blinking red dot when it hasn’t.

After you compose and press the button halfway to meter, use the switch below the shutter button to cycle through the f-stop/shutter-speed settings for the given exposure to control depth of field.

The big P button resets the camera to baseline: program mode, center focus, no exposure compensation, and so on. It makes the 7000i a big point-and-shoot.

If you like auto-everything SLRs like this one, also see my review of the Minolta Maxxum 7000 (here), the Minolta Maxxum 9xi (here), the Canon EOS 630 (here), the Canon EOS A2e (here), the Nikon N65 (here), and the Nikon N90s (here). Or check out all of my camera reviews here.

A reader donated this Minolta Maxxum 7000i to the Jim Grey Home for Wayward Cameras. It shows every sign of heavy use. Some of the material on the lower part of the grip is missing, as is the plastic around the battery door. Fortunately, the battery door stays latched.

I needed a lens to test this camera, so I bought a 35-70mm f/3.5-4.5 Minolta AF Zoom lens from UsedPhotoPro for 20 bucks. I like 35-70 zooms and this one gets good reviews. The 2CR5 battery I bought to power the camera set me back $10, so $20 for a lens ain’t nothin’. I loaded some Fujicolor 200 and got to shooting.

America's Diner

The 7000i is almost as heavy as my Nikon F2, the gold standard of heavy among 35mm SLRs. But it is easy to carry around just by holding the grip. I never bothered to attach a strap. My F2 can’t be carried this easily.

Orange tree at the pond

I have but two complaints about the 7000i: I’ve seen bigger and brighter viewfinders, and the autofocus hunted a little sometimes. I’d also complain about the 7000i’s proprietary hot shoe if I ever used flash. I can’t mount any of the flash units I already own.

Leaves

I used to wrinkle my nose at auto-everything SLRs, but I’ve come around to them. They require very little from you, freeing you to focus on composition. They reliably yield well-exposed, well-focused photographs.

Meijer

I am pleased with this 35-70 lens’s performance. So often 35-70s suffer from barrel distortion at the wide end, but not this lens. It offers good sharpness and color rendition. I may not keep this 7000i, but I’ll keep this lens for other auto-everything Minolta bodies I come upon.

School bus waiting

As you can see, I shot this entire roll on walks around my suburban neighborhood. I take the walks anyway; putting a camera into my hand before I go makes the walks more fun.

Front yard swing

The 7000i was a well-mannered companion, letting me work quickly. That’s always good as I don’t want my neighbors to wonder what I’m up to making photographs around their homes.

Road closed

Sometimes people ask me to recommend a film camera. If their experience is limited to their phone camera or a digital point-and-shoot, I tell them to buy an auto-everything SLR like this Minolta Maxxum 7000i. They can get a feel for film without diving into the deep end of f stops and shutter speeds. If they don’t like it, they didn’t spend much, as cameras like these currently go for a song.

Bathroom mirror selfie

To see more photos from this camera, check out my Minolta Maxxum 7000i gallery.

The Minolta Maxxum 7000i is a good performer and an easy handler. If you are looking for an auto-everything 35mm SLR, this camera should be on your radar.

Get more of my photography in your inbox or reader! Click here to subscribe.

Standard
Lowe's ascending

Lowe’s ascending
Minolta Maxxum 7000i, 35-70mm f/3.5-4.5 Minolta AF Zoom
Fujifilm Fujicolor 200
2020

Everywhere else I’ve ever lived, I was able to drive out of my neighborhood without passing a single store or restaurant. Not here. The only two ways out of the neighborhood empty out onto the big main road, which is a long shopping strip. I’ve never been so surrounded by companies trying to sell me things.

I don’t like it. It feels like this neighborhood’s entire reason to exist is to supply people to these businesses. All of us who live here are immersed in commerce.

I photograph this Lowe’s a lot as it is one of the first things I see anytime I walk or drive toward the main road. I made this photograph from that main road’s old alignment, which is now just a connector road for my neighborhood.

If you’d like to get more of my photography in your inbox or reader, click here to subscribe.

Film Photography

single frame: Lowe’s ascending

Lowe’s poking out between the trees.

Image