I want to shoot slide film in the autumn, to capture all the color. You’d think I’d also want to shoot slide film in the spring, which is equally colorful. But no. In my mind, slide film is for autumn.
This slide film was a gift from Marcus Peddle, who sent it all the way from Korea. He sent me four rolls; I shot two of them this time. Thanks Marcus! It’s Fujifilm Velvia 50 in 120, so I put it into my Yashica-12.
I shot mostly around the house and along Zionsville’s Main Street, although I did shoot a little in Indianapolis, which I’ll share in a later post.
Downtown Zionsville is such a rich photography environment. We won’t live here forever — Zionsville is nice and all, but I miss Indianapolis a lot. After we move, though, I will miss being able to quickly pop downtown for some photography.
I’ve shot the Yashica-12 a lot in the last year or so, and I’m getting much better at using the grid on the focusing screen to make my subject straight.
In “the village” (as we call Zionsville within its original town limits), people take holidays seriously. Many homes decorate extensively.
The Main Street shops place season-appropriate stuff on the sidewalk. For this photo I should have chosen a narrower aperture and a slower shutter speed to get more depth of field.
I got the focus right on this one, and I love the shadow play.
This florist could have done more to decorate the front of this shop, but the pastel color of the window frames and door often make me stop for a photograph.
Closer to home, the trees along the back entrance to my subdivision were just starting to change when I made this. As I write this, every tree is ablaze with red, yellow, and orange. But I wrote this on the day before Halloween. By the day this post publishes, most of these leaves will have fallen.
I mounted my 35-70mm f/3.3-4.5 Zoom Nikkor lens to the F3 for this outing. Despite its noticeable barrel distortion at the wide end, I really like this lens. It’s small and light, and its zoom range gives me good flexibility.
We met our granddaughter and her mom in downtown Zionsville, where there were gourds and pumpkins for sale. Here are three of Margaret’s kids, our “granddog” Obie, our granddaughter, and her mom.
We see our granddaughter most Sundays now, and it’s been lovely. When the weather’s nice enough we meet in town or in a park.
The used bookstore was open this day, running a clever promotion where they wrapped books in kraft paper, wrote what the book was about on the front, and sold them as book blind dates.
I finished the roll around the house. As the weather has grown chillier I’ve gone out less, but I’ve still wanted to make photographs. That means looking for new subjects, or new angles on old subjects, at home.
The 35-70 focuses from about 13 inches. I enjoy zooming this lens to 70mm and moving in close.
Our last gas grill gave up the ghost last season after just three years of service. That’s the way of $250 gas grills. I didn’t want to blow another $250 that way so I bought a little Weber charcoal grill instead. It’s more hassle to grill on charcoal but the flavor is better. Anyway, I’m pleased that I was able to capture this fire so well.
Early in my career I wrote instruction manuals for software. Users would frequently call tech support to ask questions that could answer for themselves would they only Read The F$#@ing Manual, or RTFM. Despite this, I almost always put film into a new-to-me old camera without RTFM. I get away with it most of the time. I did not when I shot this Olympus OM-4T.
The OM-4T, known as the OM-4Ti in some markets, was the last of the professional-grade cameras in Olympus’s wonderful OM series. Olympus introduced it in 1986 and manufactured it through 2002, making it among the last manual-focus 35mm SLRs produced. It’s a terrific camera — after you RTFM to learn how to use it.
It’s solidly made with titanium top and bottom plates, yet it manages to be light and easy to carry. Like all OM-series cameras, it’s small. It’s well featured, beginning with an electronically controlled cloth focal plane shutter with a top speed of 1/2000 sec. and a slowest speed of 1 sec. in manual mode and up to 2 minutes in aperture-priority mode. It meters through the lens in center-weighted average and three spot modes. The viewfinder includes dioptric correction for those of us with aging eyes. An innovative new electronic flash control system allowed flash sync from 1/60 to 1/2000 sec.
The OM-4T takes films of ISO 6 to 3200. Here’s where it’s important to RTFM. Like many SLRs, the ISO setting is around the rewind knob. It only looks like the ISO selector on so many other SLRs — it doesn’t work like them. You lift the collar on the outer knob and twist to select ISO, but unlike every other SLR I’ve ever used the exposure compensation setting moves too. After you select ISO — and this is the part where I wish I’d RTFM — you must then lower the collar and twist the exposure compensation setting to where you want it. So nonstandard. I didn’t notice that the exposure compensation was at -2 and proceeded to underexpose my film by two stops Then I loaded some ISO 200 color film and left the ISO set to 100 as I like to overexpose this film by a stop. But because the exposure compensation was still at -2, I underexposed it by one stop. I was ten frames into my third roll of film when I downloaded and read the manual and realized my error. Argh! Thank heavens for the good latitude of the films I shot.
To shoot, move the lever atop the camera to Auto for aperture-priority mode or Manual for manual exposure mode. An LCD display at the bottom of the viewfinder shows exposure information. In manual mode, you’ll see > | < and a row of dashes, along with your shutter speed. It works like a match-needle diaplay: for proper exposure, adjust shutter speed and aperture until the dashes line up with the |. In aperture-priority mode the LCD shows the range of shutter speeds and a row of dashes. Select aperture and press the shutter button down halfway to meter. The row of dashes moves to the shutter speed the OM-4T selects. If the shutter speed would need to be faster than 1/2000 sec, the display shows OVER and the camera beeps.
The star of the OM-4T show is its multi-spot exposure option. I’m not going to get into its full operation here, in no small part because this is a feature I’d hardly ever use. In short: You activate it with the SPOT button next to the shutter button. You can meter up to eight spots and the camera averages them. You can also spot meter for the highlights or for the shadows; the OM-4T then applies exposure compensation to bring out detail.
Two SR44/357 button cells power everything. Glory be, an old camera that takes batteries you can buy at any drug store! Without a battery, you can make a photo but only with a 1/60 sec. shutter.
If you like small 35mm SLRs, also check out my review of the original Olympus OM-1 here, of the OM-2n here, of the Nikon EM here, and of the Pentax ME here. If you’re an Olympus fan, see my reviews of the XA here, the XA2 here, the Stylus here, the Stylus Epic Zoom 80 here, and the mju Zoom 140 here. Or check out all of my camera reviews here.
The first roll I shot in the OM-4T was my last roll of original Agfa APX 100, expired since November of 1998 but stored frozen until my film freezer died last summer. Not only did I shoot this two stops under, but I may have underdeveloped the film. I used Rodinal 1+50, which the Massive Dev Chart said needed 13 minutes at 20° C. That’s what I did, but later I learned that Agfa recommended 17 minutes for this developer and temperature. Argh! But my scanner pulled good things out of a handful of frames.
I made these images as Indiana was reopening from shutdown during the COVID-19 pandemic. Working from home during these times has let me ride my bike more, and I made most of these photos from the bike with the OM-4T slung over my shoulder and across my torso. The body is so light and small it was an easy companion on the bike.
The viewfinder is big and bright enough for me, even though some other reviewers compare it unfavorably to the OM-1 and OM-2 viewfinders. I found having to look down at the LCD panel to be less comfortable than the needle display on the left side of the OM-2n viewfinder. Also, the LCD was a little laggy. None of this is enough for me to pan the camera. I just liked the OM-2n’s needle better.
The camera has no on-off switch, by the way. Pressing the shutter button halfway activates the camera; the LCD wakes up and gives a reading. The camera turns itself off after a while.
My OM-4T came with a standard microprism/split-image focusing screen. As a system camera, you can swap in any number of other focusing screens if you have them. I prefer split image focusing so I was good go to.
I live in a suburban vinyl village, but within five minutes on my bike I can be among the farm fields. This old farmhouse probably dates to as early as 1840.
I next shot two rolls of Fujicolor 200. I intended to shoot them at EI 100 but because I’d buggered up the exposure compensation setting I actually shot the first roll and ten frames of the second roll at EI 400. It’s a testament to this consumer-grade film that these images all turned out fine. Fulltone Photo did the developing and scanning.
I made most of these images on a beautiful morning I took off from work. I got on my bike and rode around on country roads four hours. I’ll write a separate post about the red bridge — it’s restored after being mangled by a too-large tractor.
Even though I’m a city boy through and through, I deeply enjoy riding out in the country. It’s peaceful, there’s almost no traffic to contend with, and you get to see lots of great old farmhouses.
I left the 40mm f/2 lens on for this ride. It focuses from 10 inches, making it almost a macro lens.
After I RTFMed and set ISO properly on this OM-4T, I mounted a 50mm f/1.8 Zuiko Auto-S lens and shot the rest of the roll on various bike rides over the next week or so. I can’t imagine riding with many of my other 35mm SLRs as they are so much larger and heavier.
Except for that laggy viewfinder LCD, the OM-4T handled beautifully. The controls all felt well-made and smooth under use.
Rewinding film on the OM-4T is a little different from on the OM-1 and OM-2. Press in the R button atop the camera next to the shutter button. Then pull up the rewind crank and rewind away.
I had a fine time with the Olympus OM-4T. Because I never fully took to the LCD display, it never disappeared in my hands like the OM-2n did. But this camera passes my litmus test: if it were the only one I could own, I’d shrug and get on with making beautiful images with it for the rest of my life.
If you like old film cameras, check out all of my reviews here! To get Down the Road in your inbox or feed reader, subscribe here.
I didn’t mean to walk in the rain. It’s supposed to be romantic and all, but I was alone, and I didn’t really want to be wet. But this shower popped up out of nowhere. It caught my Dark Sky app by surprise — it is very good about warning me before it rains.
I figured the rain wasn’t going to hurt my camera, a circa-1950 Argus Argoflex Forty. It’s a hardy little box. So I pressed on.
It’s also a reasonably capable little box. Its lens is sharp except in the very corners, and it offers a range of apertures and shutter speeds.
I was burning off my last roll of Kodak Tri-X, expired since June of 1981. After shooting my last roll at box speed and getting dense and foggy negatives, I set exposure on this manual camera as if this were an ISO 100 film, hoping for improvement. I developed in LegacyPro L110 Dilution B (1+31).
This roll looked far better than my last one — less grainy, better resolution. Fresh Tri-X would have looked even better, of course; these still look like they were shot on expired film. But I’m pleased with these results.
I shot this back in early July during a week when we had several pop-up showers in full sunshine. That’s a real rarity! I haven’t seen anything like it since I was a child.
From the 1980s to the early 2000s, camera manufacturers manufactured as many compact point-and-shoot cameras as stars in the sky. Or so it seems. eBay lists billions and billions of them at any moment, at any rate. So many of them are crap, making it a crapshoot to find the good ones. So many are wildly overpriced. A tip: Pentax’s compacts in the IQZoom and Espio series are usually good, sometimes great — and are bargain priced. Like this one, the Pentax IQZoom 170SL.
The IQZoom 170SL is small: just 4.5×2.25×2 inches. But it packs a long lens, a 38-170mm f/5.6-12.8 SMC Pentax Zoom, of 8 elements in 6 groups. Did you catch that? SMC! Super Multi Coated! Just like all the great Pentax SLR lenses. Not all IQZoom/Espio cameras come so equipped. If you don’t see SMC on an IQZoom’s lens bezel, it doesn’t have an SMC lens.
The 170SL’s electronic shutter operates from 1/360 to 2 sec. It reads the film canister’s DX code to set ISO from 25 to 3200. Avoid non-DX coded films, as the camera defaults to a not-useful ISO 25. It focuses automatically, using a phase-matching five-point system. At the lens’s wide end it focuses from 2.45 feet; at maximum zoom from 3.9 feet. It sets exposure automatically.
The buttons atop the camera control its functions. One is for flash and shutter modes. When you turn the camera on, it uses flash when low light demands it, unless you turn flash off with this button. It also lets you force flash on and choose long shutter speeds, including bulb mode.
The middle button controls the autofocus, including infinity focus lock and spot focus. The next button turns on the self-timer and a wireless remote shutter control. My 170SL didn’t come with the remote, so I couldn’t try it. The right button sets the camera’s date and time. Some 170SLs don’t have this button, apparently. If you set a date and time, it imprints onto the negative.
The viewfinder offers diopter adjustment, a very nice touch. Move the slider on top of the viewfinder pod until the view is crisp.
The camera loads your film, winds, and rewinds automatically. You load the film upside down from the right side, which is a little odd. A single CR2 battery powers all.
This was an expensive camera: $433 when new. You could get a Pentax 35mm SLR kit for about that then!
If you like point-and-shoot 35mm cameras, check out my reviews of the Yashica T2 (here), the Pentax IQZoom EZY (here), the Nikon Zoom Touch 400 (here), the Olympus Stylus (here), the Olympus Stylus Epic Zoom 80 (here), the Olympus mju Zoom 140 (here), and the Kodak VR35 K40 (here). Or check out all of my camera reviews here.
I put a roll of Fujifilm Superia X-tra 400 into the 170SL and took it to downtown Zionsville one evening. Most places were closed thanks to the COVID-19 lockdown, so we had Main Street largely to ourselves. Here’s my favorite photo from the roll.
The IQZoom 170SL was an easy companion on this walk. It is very light but feels solid. Every control fell right to hand. It took me no time at all to blow through all 24 exposures on the roll.
The zoom worked smoothly but a little slowly, with a soft whirr. Winding was similarly quiet. I’m impressed with how the autoexposure system navigated mixed lighting.
I’m impressed with the sharpness and bold color I got. This camera made Fuji 400 look better than I’ve ever seen it.
Next to the viewfinder are green and red lights. The green light glows when autofocus has a lock. The red light blinks when flash is charging and glows steady when flash is ready. In this fading light the flash fired a lot. I knew when I photographed this sign the flash would reflect. So I turned flash off and the long-exposure mode on and shot it again. That shot turned out soft.
In dim corners the 170SL gave surprisingly shallow depth of field.
That roll flew by so fast I barely got a feel for the camera. So I loaded some Fujicolor 200 and took the camera on a lunchtime walk through the shopping centers near my home. I was glad for a bright day, as full sun is so often a challenge for point-and-shoot cameras. Not so the 170SL. Just look at that color!
I detect a whiff of pincushion distortion here, but overall I find this lens to suffer little from distortion. Again: just look at that color!
I find yellows commonly wash out on consumer color films, but the 170SL brought it in, big and bold, every time. This photo shows a little vignetting which I suppose is to be expected from a compact zoom camera.
The 170SL even rendered black impressively deep and true.
I forgot to mention earlier that the 170SL has a panorama mode. A switch on the bottom moves masks in place over the film and in the viewfinder.
That scene was too far away, so I zoomed in to the max and shot again. At 170mm it’s hard to hold the lens steady.
I did manage one decent 170mm shot. For this one, I stood square, breathed steadily, and squeezed the shutter button slowly. It’s still soft, but not due to shake this time. That’s just how maximum zoom goes on these point-and-shoot cameras, in my experience.
I’m impressed with the Pentax IQZoom 170SL. Actually I’m blown away by the bold, rich color I got on everyday color film. I plan to put a couple rolls of black-and-white film through this camera to see how they perform. If they wow me as much as these color rolls did, I might just have a keeper!
If you like old film cameras, check out all of my reviews here! To get Down the Road in your inbox or feed reader, subscribe here.
I reach for my Pentax ME all the time because it’s small (for a 35mm SLR), light, and easy to use. It is an aperture-priority camera, meaning that after you set the aperture, the camera reads the light and sets the shutter speed. I recommend the ME because they are inexpensive and fun to use. If you want that but you simply must have full control over exposure, then the 1979-84 Pentax ME Super is for you.
Its electronically controlled shutter operates from 4 to 1/2000 sec. — different from the ME’s 8 to 1/1000 sec. shutter. Also, if you use flash it syncs at 1/125 sec., rather than the ME’s 1/100 sec. But under use, these cameras feel and work much the same. In Auto mode, look through the viewfinder and twist the aperture ring. A dot glows next to the shutter speed the camera chooses. The dot is green-yellow at 1/60 sec. and above. It’s orange-yellow below 1/60 to caution you of shake if you’re holding the camera in your hands.
There’s just one quirk to setting shutter speed, though. There’s no dial or ring. Instead, put it in manual mode by twisting the dial atop the camera to M. Then press the two black buttons to change the shutter speed. The viewfinder helps you get a good exposure. A red light blinks rapidly next to OVER or UNDER until you choose an aperture and shutter speed that gives good exposure. It works more intuitively in practice than that sounds like.
That’s a good thing, because this Pentax ME Super has a fault in Auto mode: the mirror doesn’t return. The mirror returns properly in manual mode, so that’s how I shot it.
If you like compact SLRs, also see my review of the original Pentax ME (here), the Olympus OM-1 (here) and the Nikon FA (here). If you like Pentax SLRs, see my review of the K1000 (here), the KM (here), the Spotmatic SP (here), the Spotmatic F (here), the ES II (here), and the H3 (here). Or check out all of my camera reviews here.
I shot my test roll while we were all hunkered down at home thanks to COVID-19. Knowing I’d want to shoot some things indoors handheld, I loaded speedy Kodak T-Max 400 into the ME Super. I developed it in Rodinal 1+50. This is a mug our son often uses for his tea.
Our dishwasher is on the fritz, so we handwash our dishes and leave them to dry. The kitchen window is nearby, providing plenty of light.
I took the ME Super on photo walks around the neighborhood, as well. This SLR is so light that I hardly noticed it hanging over my shoulder.
The mirror slap jars the camera a tiny bit. The ME Super supposedly has a mirror dampening mechanism that the ME lacked. But I was surprised to feel the camera move in my hands each time I fired the shutter. My ME doesn’t do that.
I adapted quickly to the ME Super’s manual mode. By the end of the roll, my fingers were finding the two buttons with my camera still at my eye.
The ME Super offers everything I love about the original ME plus that manual mode. But I’d hardly use manual mode (if this ME Super’s Auto mode were working). I prefer aperture-priority shooting and use it nearly exclusively on every SLR I own that is so equipped.
If my ME disappeared, however, I could just pick up this ME Super and keep right on trucking. After a CLA and a repair of Auto mode, that is. I might even use the manual mode once in a blue moon.
It’s hard for me to be objective about the Pentax ME Super because I’ve used and loved its predecessor, the Pentax ME, for years. If you like the ME, you’ll like the ME Super, and vice versa. If you’ve never used either and you are at all curious, hie thee to eBay where bodies can regularly be had for chicken feed.