The camera had been lying around in a cupboard for a long long time so, since it wasn’t being used, I sold it. “You gave me that camera as an engagement present!!!” said my wife. There are mistakes, and there are serious mistakes, this was a serious mistake. Fortunately the buyer returned the camera for a refund, the focusing screen wasn’t the one he wanted. Phew!
More than 40 years ago I used to use a Pentax ME Super. I had bought myself one soon after they were released, my first new camera and I loved it. The controls were simple and it became intuitive. I had drooled over the LX but couldn’t afford one, but I collected the sales brochure and occasionally over the following years and decades looked through it. A few years after buying the ME Super I found a serious job (i.e. decent income) and got involved in large format photography paralleled with a Leica M6. Some years later when I got engaged I wondered what to give my fiancee. We had been on many photography trips, she was using my old ME Super, so I decided to get her an LX. She used it for a while but then her interests changed and it sat in the cupboard.
A month or so ago I thought “that’s a decent camera, I’d better check it still works and try to encourage her to use it”. So I loaded it with FP4 and took it out with a Vivitar 28mm f2.8, SMC 50mm f1.4 and 120mm f2.8 lenses. The camera was completely intuitive and much to my surprise fun to use. I had forgotten one of the benefits of an SLR – put a filter on and you get a good idea of what it does, something that doesn’t happen with rangefinders or digital cameras (for colour filters). Even the SLAP-BANG of the mirror had a nostalgic and reassuring sound. But best not to take photographs in quiet streets!
I decided to develop the film in Rodinal (I had a half used 4 to 5 year old bottle) with, for the first time for me, semi-stand development. My normal developer has been Cookbook D76 but the increasing trend to make raw chemical unavailable to ordinary mortals made me think I should use Rodinal but try to reduce its characteristic graininess. Also when I have a range of different films to develop, or when I know some frames in a roll are over and some under-exposed, I use a divided bath developer, so ideally as well I wanted to try an auto-compensating developing method. It turns out I was far too aggressive with the agitation for the first films I developed (first six images below) giving 5 inversions at 20 and 40 minutes, but even so grain was not a significant problem for images with limited sky. Scanning was on my flatbed Epson GT-X900 using VueScan software with film set as ‘generic’ and the light and dark point auto levels removed. For the first time ever I think the scans were virtually all completely clean, no spotting needed, and dark and light areas captured in all the frames – no unwanted blacks or burnt out highlights. The first six images below are unedited apart from very minor cropping in a few cases.
I took another roll (images 7 to 9) but used very gentle agitation (twirling the reel a few times at 30 minutes) and included some sky shots with a red filter. One of the sky shots (8) needed spotting in several places, apart from that the images again are straight scans. I find the grain on the sky shots rather intrusive so I might give Delta 100 a try next.
Perhaps it was the combination of events – the enjoyment I had out of using the camera and the end results – I was smitten. This is a brilliant camera so of course I decided to get one for myself!
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