I got a 35mm f/2 lens off Ebay for my long-dormant Pentax MX last week, and decided to take it out for a bit of a leg-stretch. The test was crucial not only because the lens was new to me, but also because I had to clean up gunk from the aperture ring to get it to move smoothly, and wanted to make sure I didn’t make too much of a mess of things.
Having bought a brick of AristaEDU 400 (Freestyle’s repackage of Fomapan 400) recently, I decided not to extend my financial woes and just go with that for my testing. It’s a decent film, but in 35mm prone to more halation in the highlights than a really top notch film would have. And while I love nice solid Tri-X or HP5+ grain, Foma’s is a bit on the rough side. I love it to bits in medium in large format where the grain issue doesn’t play as much of a role, but on 35mm it seems slightly sub-optimal.
But enough whining about economy film. I developed it in what I had on hand, i.e. Adox Rodinal, 1:25 at 22C – it’s what came out of the tap in my basement during the recent heat wave. I had no real desire to play around with ice or sticking it into the refrigerator, so I adjusted the time given by Massive Dev Chart by about 10% and just flew with it. The longer I do this, the more I realize all of the super-sensitive development information is really not.
The whole roll was shot on a single day, mostly on my lunchtime constitutional around River West and Wolf Point in downtown Chicago. I finished it on the train on my way home.
I guess the main takeaways are that I did well buying the lens. The sticky aperture is sticky no more and everything seems great. Some reviews say the M series 35mm f/2 isn’s so sharp, but I can’t really say I have anything to complain about. Wide open you see some softness in the corners, but I don’t know any wide lens that doesn’t have that. Correct me if I’m wrong, Leica and Zeiss fanboyz. Anyway, the lens is tack-sharp where it counts, the contrast looks good, and exposure was right on the money – what else can you ask for?
I’m also pretty happy with the MX. I bought it some time ago out of slightly skewed nostalgia: I used a K1000 early on in college, but having read reviews that compared the MX favorably to the “baseline” Pentax, I went with that instead. In the end I decided to keep it over the Olympus OM-1N I bought around the same time. While a magnificent piece of work, the Oly just didn’t fit my hand as well as the MX did, and I couldn’t get used to the meter switch you had to remember to turn off every time you put the camera away.
In contrast, the MX just slips into my hand like it was made for it, and all you have to do to turn the meter off is to pop the film advance back against the body. Quite a nice little camera, even with the compact but slightly weighty 35mm f/2. All in all, it seems to have everything you’d want, and nothing you wouldn’t – a real keeper.
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