United States Court House and Post Office Olympus XA2 Ultrafine Xtreme 100 2019
I sometimes wonder if anyone notices me photographing this building. I’ve done it a lot lately. It is, after all, a federal courthouse — the threat of terrorism has all federal buildings on alert. I’m sure security officers are always watching.
But I’m a middle-aged man in business casual dress carrying an old film camera. I hope that signals I’m a threat to nobody.
My last go-round with Ultrafine Xtreme 100 in my Olympus XA2 went badly. You can see some of the photos here. I have no idea what went wrong.
I wanted to take a compact film camera along on the trip my wife and I made to New Harmony in July. The XA2 was handy and, not remembering my unfortunate results from last time, I loaded my last roll of this film and went on my way.
Everything worked fine.
I didn’t make any particularly inspiring photographs with the XA2 in New Harmony. I was also shooting my digital Canon S95, and it just felt like a color weekend. I made only eight photos in New Harmony with the XA2. Here’s a double log cabin on the grounds of the Lenz House.
The XA2’s meter and Xtreme 100’s sensitivity came together to handle this challenging exposure situation well.
I took the XA2 to work and left it in my desk drawer for a few weeks, taking it on lunchtime photo walks whenever I felt like it. This Indianapolis street scene looks northbound up Delaware Street toward what everybody calls the Gold Building, as those mirrored glass panes are so tinted. I worked for a company in the Gold Building when my now 22-year-old son was born.
I’ve been fascinated lately with the federal courthouse and have photographed it with several camera/film combinations lately. It was completed in 1905. This building was once also a post office, I believe the main one for Indianapolis. It hasn’t been that in a very long time, but the engraved words above the entry still announce it as such.
I photographed the AT&T building from the courthouse. I like the look of a desolate street, so I waited several minutes for traffic to clear.
I like Ultrafine Xtreme 100. It captures a good range of tones, its blacks are deep, and it seems to have good exposure latitude. That last bit is especially important for a photographer like me who shoots old gear with light meters of unknown accuracy.
Rumor has it that this film is repackaged Kentmere 100. Here are posts from every roll of Kentmere 100 I’ve shot; compare and judge for yourself.
I recently put a roll of film through an Olympus XA2 that someone gave to me. I’ve owned another XA2 so I know that this is a lovely camera — very compact, with a great lens and easy zone focusing. But then I made a series of rookie mistakes shooting this one and it reminded me of a key lesson: when testing something, let the thing you test be the only unknown.
I didn’t follow that maxim when testing this XA2:
I grabbed a battery out of another camera I’d just shot, which I had pulled out of another camera, and another before it, and who knows how many other cameras before that. That battery could have been tired.
I used a film I’m still getting to know, Ultrafine Xtreme 100. I’ve liked it a lot every other time I’ve shot it, but I don’t know how it behaves in all conditions yet.
I used a lab that is fairly new to me to process and scan the roll, and I’m still learning their capabilities.
The scans looked terrible, with both blown-out highlights and very dark shadows. I couldn’t tell how much of that was the lab’s fault and how much was the fault of bad exposures. No amount of Photoshopping could save them. I rescanned the negatives on my flatbed scanner (a Canon CanoScan 9000F Mark II) using the software that came with the scanner. That improved them enough that Photoshop could make the images usable.
Here are a few photographs that show what came off my scanner. This was the worst of the photographs as the bridge was badly blown out. I severely squashed the highs and lows out of the shot in Photoshop to make it sort of usable.
This shot is probably the best-exposed of the bunch, and I still had to heavily adjust highlights and shadows on it.
The just-before-dusk light in the nature park was challenging. I had another camera along, one I’ve shot many times. Its meter got the highlights right but left the shadows very dark. So perhaps this was an extreme test of an unknown camera. Fortunately, I took this XA2 along on a day trip to a distant town. It was near the middle of the day and the sun was fully out.
Even on these shots the shadows were very dark. The highlights weren’t as blown, however. But these shots miss the mark in sharpness and detail.
These photos clearly do not represent what this camera or film can do. Here’s a photo I took with my other Olympus XA2, beautifully exposed and full of life.
And here are a few photos on Ultrafine Xtreme 100 from other cameras. First, from my Zeiss Ikon Contessa LK:
And now from a Minolta XG 1 with the 50/1.4 MD Rokkor-X lens.
That frame was processed and scanned by the same lab as did the roll from the XA2, so I know the lab is capable of good work.
I have put a fresh battery and the film I know best, Agfa Vista 200, in the XA2 for another try. I must have missed it before, but the in-viewfinder underexposure light comes on in situations when I would expect it not to. All may not be well with the meter. So the lab appears not to be the problem — instead, it’s probably the camera itself, the one thing that should always have been the only unknown in this equation.
After shooting my Minolta XG 1 in Operation Thin the Herd, I decided it was time to part with all of my Minolta gear. Bit by bit I’ve been selling it off. But before I let my 50mm f/1.4 MD Rokkor-X lens go, I shot one last roll of film with it.
It’s a crying shame I’ve had such bad luck with Minolta bodies, because the lenses are sublime. This 50/1.4 leads the pack. It’s easily the finest 50/1.4 I’ve used for any system.
Ultrafine Xtreme 100 has been a good utility b/w film every time I’ve used it, but this lens made the stuff absolutely sing.
Just look at that sharpness and detail! If only I had better luck with Minolta bodies, this lens and I could have made beautiful music together for years to come.
But I sold the camera to one person and the lens to another. I hope that they both get excellent use in new hands.
Now every time I look at these photos, I will think wistfully about this lovely 50mm f/1.4 MD Rokkor lens.
I’ll never forget the first time I came to Indianapolis. It was 1976. My dad’s best friend knew the director of the about-to-open Children’s Museum and had arranged us a preview tour. We had the museum and its exhibits all to ourselves. That’s memorable enough — but my other great memory of that day is entering town on US 31, Meridian Street, and having my breath taken away by the stunning homes that line it.
More than forty years hence I still love to drive along Meridian Street to see its wonderful homes. Many of the most expansive and expensive homes are within the North Meridian Street Historic District, which runs from 40th St. north about a mile and a half to Westfield Blvd.
The District’s homes were built between the two World Wars in classical styles. All are large, detailed, and well kept. Here now, a brief tour from a walk I took from 40th St. up to about 46th St.