5 frames with...

5 frames with a Yashica Mat 124 and Ektar 100 – by Hugo

In recent years I’ve started exploring photography with a bit more purpose, making an effort to learn and understand exposure. This led me to the Fuji X system, in the hope that the tactile analogue controls would force me to learn, and it certainly helped.

At the same time, I became aware of the recent recent renaissance in film photography – was it sheer nostalgia, like the appeal of vinyl records, or was there something more to it? I began asking relatives whether they had any old film cameras. Someone had an old Voigtländer Brillant TLR. I loved the idea of continuing to use a family heirloom, rather than buying second hand. I also found my old Olympus mju-ii and have used it a couple of times since – a classic example of a camera that’s great to find in the attic but way overpriced in the second hand market.

However, I wanted more control than a point and shoot provides.  I put a roll through the Voigtländer and got some good results, but found the focusing and film advance too hit and miss, and the shutter wasn’t in great condition, and probably not worth the repair. Yet I was hooked. I became rather obsessed with researching film cameras: trying to identify something that wouldn’t break the bank , was a little easier to use, yet still had fully manual controls. The Yashica Mat 124 seemed an obvious choice: a Rolleiflex copy, with a great lens, and plenty on the second hand market. I found a cheap one on ebay with a broken light meter.

Since then, I’ve put about 5 rolls through it, gradually getting the hang of exposure and composition with the square format. There is a certain joy to be had in looking through the waist level viewfinder. I even “flocked” the film chamber in an effort to increase contrast. I’m keen to try some other film stocks (Portra 400 being the obvious one) but I’ve got some Tri-X and a few more rolls of Ektar to work through before I can justify buying some more.

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I was skeptical about the film renaissance, but having tried it, I can feel the magnetic pull myself: restriction breeds creativity, old cameras have an attractive simplicity and are fun to use, and the anticipation of waiting for the results is reward enough in itself.

What follows is 5 frames taken this spring from a roll of Ektar 100.

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5 Comments

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Kurt Ingham
    July 24, 2019 at 4:20 pm

    Thanks for the posting. The problem with color negative film is that the quality of the result is highly dependent on the quality of the printing/scanning.

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Eric Rose
    July 24, 2019 at 4:48 pm

    Did you shoot all or most of the images at a wide open aperture? Could be drug store prints scanned, not sure but most of the images look pretty soft to me. I shoot square as well and love it. Just bought some Ektar and can’t wait to give it a whirl.

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Hugo
      July 24, 2019 at 5:45 pm

      I don’t remember settings exactly, though to my mind the subject looks sharp enough! The first frame of the blossoms probably was wide open, but that was shot quite early morning in overcast conditions. All were taken hand held – ISO 100 doesnt give you much leeway, and I was wary of underexposing. Plus, I liked the dreamy effect there. The deckchairs and tree were at f5.6 or f8 – deliberately so to try and get subject separation, but perhaps I overdid it. I might have been better stopping down further particularly the tree shot – still learning! From what I’ve read the lens is sharpest at f11, but sharpness isn’t everything. The roll was developed and scanned by AG photolab. Bear in mind these are downsampled slightly from the original scans…

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    Reply
    Graham Line
    July 24, 2019 at 6:19 pm

    Turn the statement around:
    Thanks for the posting. The (problem) creative advantage with color negative film is that the quality of the result is highly dependent on the quality of the printing/scanning.

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Hugo
      July 30, 2019 at 1:01 pm

      This is something I’ve been thinking about but didn’t articulate in the post in trying to explore what it is that keeps film alive as a medium. There’s certainly something to be said for a particular film stock giving a certain look, and requiring less editing work than digital. There is also a certain nostalgia or preference for getting the creative result from the initial choice of film and development, rather than in post processing. I think this is somewhat over emphasised. Whether you send your film off to a lab for scanning, or do it yourself, you are forced to go through the process of editing or adjusting the scan, or if done by a lab, adjusted by a professional. Clearly if some editing has been done, you are going to get better results vs for example SOOC digital jpeg. Many of the new wave of film photographers lauded on youtube/instragram do a fair bit of (digital) editing to get the look they want, which strays quite far from the “SOOC” film negative.

      Hence, I’m not quite satisfied with lab scans, not to mention the cost, particularly if you want high quality TIFFs. I’m supposed to be getting Hamish’s pixl-latr so i can give scanning a go with my digital camera, which may make the process more sustainable. 🙂

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