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Thoughts on Cameras

Doing my Thing (with a Fuji or two) – By Thorsten Wulff

I love my Fuji. The X100s that is. A couple of weeks ago I went to a function at the german parliament. Security is tight, like when boarding a plane you face scanners, bullet proof glass, the works. I just brought my X100s, and the security guys were so amazed by it that they asked if the could put it through the X-Ray twice to see it from all sides. Hamish and Steven just got into some of the details of two of the cameras iterations here and here, so I’ll skip that. But for saying that what I love about the X100 is the size, and that everybody believes it’s your dads old rangefider from the 1950s.

Everybody thinks its analog, and that makes it appear harmless. And the best part, the silent shutter. One of the first things I switched off, right after the AF-light, was all the beeps, clicks and sounds the camera can optionally make. My ususal workhorses are three fat, loud Nikons. So everybody knows that when the clicking stops, the cameras arn’t being used.

But by then I’m shooting the noiseless Fuji and getting the more candid shots. My late friend, the writer Günter Grass, was fond of the X100 exactly because of that silence. One night, celebrating the launch of a huge exhibition of his work, he sat opposite of me and saw the Fuji dangling on my neck. Grabbing my arm he said: “Come on, do your thing!” “Okay” I replied, “light your pipe”. I took two shots with the X100. Grass died soon after this…

On another occasion I went to shoot the writer Haruki Murakami, again just with the X100s. I got stuck in traffic, was very late and almost missed him. While I did my thing, this lady with an old 200 Series Polaroid was shooting me shooting Murakami, ripping the pack film out of the camera after every exposure and storing the images under her arm. Murakami left, we started talking about Photography and New York City, and I had no idea who she was.

She reminded me a bit of Annie Leibovitz, but I was sure it was not her. The walls around us had the oak wood paneling, transplanted from the Times former London building. It was a good fit for Murakami as background, but I wanted something classic. I asked her if she knew a nice white wall somewhere for a portrait, and she suggested the Ladies room. So we went there, and I took my picture of Patti Smith. No problem with the Fuji.

From the first frame I took, I used the X100s in manual focus mode with the optical viewfinder. The camera is set to exposure preview and focus peaking, so that it activates the electronic finder the moment you touch the focus ring on the lens. This has the double advantage of looking rangefinder-style and battery saving through the finder window at all times, plus superfast focusing with the peaking feature. I keep the camera in manual mode, so the exposure preview comes in handy for fast decisions. In this way, the X100s does not get in my way and really helps me to get the picture without any fuss.

For the last couple of weeks I tried out the Fujifilm X-Pro3, you know, the one with the hidden display. While this got a lot of attention on the internet, it was actually not really a topic for me. I never check my images on the X100s display either. One reason is the conservation of energy, the other that the exposure preview in the electronic viewfinder is spot on, same with the focus peaking.

To shoot the X-pro3 I applied basically the same settings: manual focus and exposure. My first outing was to an Berlin christmas market. It was getting dark, so I used the XF 23mm F/2 wide open with ISO 4000. Again, I used the optical finder plus focus peaking, so no problems arose focusing in the very blue hour on a foggy Berlin December afternoon. The angels on stilts were shot at ƒ2 1/250sec:

The X-Pro3 features the same silent mode as the X100 with the electronic shutter, so no one realizes you taking a picture if you don’t fuddle too long with the camera. Just bring it up, focus, and snap.

On New Years Eve I met a group of argentinian jugglers, performing on an highway off-ramp. They were dancing quite a bit around between the slow moving cars, I had to watch my back while taking the pictures. For this I switched the 23mm to ƒ/9 with the X-Pro3 on ISO 1600, and the depth of field scale set on 1,5 meters. This hyperfocal distance gave me enough space to move around safely and to use the finder window just for framing Lucila.

The X-Pro3 is not a camera for everybody, and does not pretend to be that. Fuji got a surprising amount of buzz out of that hidden display, which is certainly not bad for a rangefinder style camera in 2020. I really enjoyed this bold move by the X-Pro design team, it proves that the spirit which gave us the first X100 is strong with Fujifilm. With a couple of settings you can switch this camera to full manual mode and do your thing. Analog or Digital.

Thank you for your time. If you interested in more of my work, you can find it at thorstenwulff.com

Thoughts on Cameras

Street shootout between Nikon 35mm camera/lens combos yields surprising results – By Isaac D. Pacheco

Gear reviews are typically created to help consumers decide between products with similar specifications and price points. Accordingly, comparisons often focus on the nuances that exist between otherwise analogous products. That was obviously not the intent of this zany Nikon 35mm shoot off. This review grew from my desire to see how my recently acquired Nikonos V with its included W-Nikkor 35mm f/2.5 lens, which I picked up second hand for $200, stacked up against Nikon’s top-of-the-line 35mm film combo, the $2,500 Nikon F6 and $1,500 AF-S Nikkor 35mm f/1.4G.

Nikon F6 / AF-S 35mm f/1.4G

Nikonos V / W-Nikkor 35mm f/2.5

The resulting shots ended up looking pretty similar, but image quality is only one consideration when selecting a camera/lens combo for a particular assignment. Ergonomics, ease of use, and durability are all critically important factors as well. I pitted an underwater rangefinder from the mid-1980s, mounted with a manual focus lens that was originally introduced in 1963, against Nikon’s flagship 35mm SLR outfitted with a 35mm prime lens from 2010 that includes features like Nano Crystal Coat and Silent Wave autofocus. This was never going to be a fair fight.

Nikonos V / W-Nikkor 35mm f/2.5

Nikon F6 / AF-S 35mm f/1.4G

I expected the speed and handling of the F6 combo to far surpass the brick-like Nikonos V with its manual, distance-scale focus lens. I expected the bright SLR viewfinder to help me achieve more accurate compositions. I expected the faster AF-S lens to be sharper wide open. I got what I expected.

Nikonos V / W-Nikkor 35mm f/2.5

Nikon F6 / AF-S 35mm f/1.4G

What I didn’t expect was how similarly the lenses performed when stopped down. I’m not just referring to sharpness and depth of field, differences that become negligible for most lenses when they’re shot at f/8 or smaller apertures. No, the real surprise was how similar color rendition, contrast, and distortion looked between these two lenses with very different optical formulas. The W-Nikkor 35mm lens, for being half a century older and 20 times less expensive than the “gold ring” AF-S lens, created results on par with its professional counterpart. I did find most shots from the F6 to be slightly warmer than those from the Nikonos V, which I suspect is a result of the Super Integrated Coating on one element of the AF-S lens.

Nikonos V / W-Nikkor 35mm f/2.5

Nikon F6 / AF-S 35mm f/1.4G

I loaded both cameras with FUJIFILM Fujicolor C200 and shot them in aperture priority mode. With the exception of the hotdog vendor shots above, I selected the same apertures for each comparison shot and relied on each camera’s center weight meter to select the proper shutter speed. For the most part, all exposures ended up being within 1/3 stop of each other. This shoot off was definitely not a scientifically rigorous comparison, and it was never intended to be. It was simply a fun excuse to get out and take some pictures on film. But it also ended up reinforcing the notion that you don’t always need to spend a ton of money to make high-quality photographs.

Nikonos V / W-Nikkor 35mm f/2.5

Nikon F6 / AF-S 35mm f/1.4G

Street shooters on a budget who are happy with manual focus won’t find a more solid combo (literally and metaphorically) than the Nikonos V and W-Nikkor 35mm f/2.5. Not only can this fully waterproof rangefinder and lens be had for a fraction of the price of professional SLR gear, but they are also smaller and financially less painful to replace should they be lost or stolen. This makes the Nikonos V a particularly good choice for journalists and street shooters who are covering assignments in inclement weather or in other harsh and unpredictable environments.

Inspiration Photos & Projects

Shooting Black & White Film at the Zoo – by Christian Schroeder

I have found a new thrill: photographing animals at the Hanover Zoo, my local menagerie.

Well, what is it about then? Taking pictures of animals differs from taking pictures of humans. Do animals get uncomfortable when they notice a camera? No. Or do they tend to pose instead? Again, a clear denial. In addition, each species exhibits a specific behavior – some hide inside their hole while others frolic around. I suppose, therein lies a large portion of the fun.

One thing I have learned fast: it takes time to get some good shots. As so often in life, patience and humbleness are the key. According to my experience, it helps to restrict oneself on just two or three species per visit. The tigers and the hippos? Why not? Or the flamingos and the giraffes? Good choice. Maybe the rhinos and the polar bears? That’s okay, too. But not all of them the same day. In this regard, the conditions are favorable for me: the zoo is located in a 10 minute-range from my home and I hold an annual ticket. Thereby, I am able to go there quite often – and I don’t feel the urge to see as many animals as possible when I’m on the site.

Red river hog at the Hannover Zoo.

Red river hog. I love their funny squeaking noises.

Catch them if you can

The zoo seems to be one of these places where people still bring their “real” cameras with them (though smartphone photography is ubiquitous here, too). Once I was watching the red panda, when a DSLR shooter joined me. He pointed his telephoto lens at the little fellow rushing through the tree tops and started a machine gun fire. If I had to guess, I would say my colleague took at least two hundred images within five minutes. I, for my part, quickly realized that the red panda was too far away for the 90mm lens I had chosen. Hence, I continued to observe and didn’t press the shutter at all.

With 35mm, I typically end up with 38 exposures per roll. So the combination of film photography and erratic moving animals can easily equal a losing bargain. I am still struggling to realize the right moment for taking the shot. How often have I thought “This could be it!”, a split second later followed by a “Maybe it will get even better?”. The moment I am mentally ready to execute it, the situation has already passed. Street photographer’s crux, I guess: nailing the point between “I was too fast” and “I hesitated too long”.

But it’s not that the first photographs of animals were shot with the invention of digital cameras. A myriad of impressive images was created before on film, over a span of many decades. (Just think of National Geographic.) As Gregory “Egor” Simpson once pointed out: “Analog photography, unlike digital, required actual work.” If you want to use film photography for certain types of subjects, you have to acquire certain skills. And for me, this fact is just: a great thing.

Too much monkey business

Why do some animals get so much attention, more than others? Why do we want to watch them for hours? I suppose, often it is this “look in the mirror” thing. Take the Gorillas: they resemble humans in their facial expressions and their body language. Sometimes, the Gorillas are contemplating a serious problem. But are they really? Or they seem extremely bored. Excited. Tired. Satisfied. Annoyed. Happy.

For me, strolling through the zoo feels mostly like a little vacation. Do you remember the comedy movie “Office Space”? When the frustrated programmer Peter Gibbons attends a hypnotherapy session and asks the doctor: “Is there any way that you… sorta just zone me out that I don’t know that I’m at work? […] Could I come home and think that I’ve been fishing all day?” – Sometimes, we all need a place where the peculiarities of work melt away.

Yawing gorilla captured on black-and-white film.

“Should have gone to bed earlier!”

The scope of this short article lies on the subject matter and not on the tools I used. This time, I find it more appealing to report on inspirational places rather than on familiar (to you) types of cameras. Hence just a short note gear-wise: I relied on different Leica rangefinder cameras and lenses combined with various black-and-white films (the usual suspects made by Ilford and Kodak). So if the usual gear shot opener is obsolete, what to do instead? Correct, I present you another animal!

Hippopotamus photographed at the Hannover Zoo.

The hippo came directly out of the pond – thus, it’s skin looks like molten metal.

Rhinoceros photographed at the Hannover Zoo.

Rhino going for a walk.

Finally, I would like to thank the Hannover Zoo for the kind permission to publish these photographs here at 35mmc. If you live closer by, pay the zoo a visit. And thank you for reading!

Scale Focus Thoughts on Cameras

Highs and Lows of Travel Photography with the Olympus XA3 – By Keith Tomlinson

Holding up traffic, Olympus XA3

Well, what can I say?  I fell foul of hype and hyperbole this year and I have learnt my lesson.  I own a perfectly good Olympus Trip and a Rollei 35 but no that was not enough! I was heading to Thailand for the trip of a lifetime and wanted to accompany my digital camera with a point and shoot.  Instead of using either of the two cameras I have (and am aware of how to use), I decided in a rash moment to get my hands on an Olympus XA3.

Why?  Cause the web said so!

Wat, Bangkok, Olympus XA3

Wat, Bangkok, Olympus XA3

Joking aside I got it as it was light, had a good lens and the design means the lens is always protected – perfect for travelling. I cannot remember if I took any shots before I went away (as I did not give myself any time), but I learnt a few lessons with the XA3.

Yes it is light, yes it is small but the automated system is something you have to get used to. I’d shoot photos with my digital camera and then aim to capture one special shot on film and this is where I came unstuck.

In brilliant light, with a steady hand and patience, the XA3 performed brilliantly well.  In fact, I have some wonderful crips photos that are metered well and either the Kodak Gold or the FujiFilm (expired) stock, produced some pleasing results.

It all went pear-shaped when the light was poor or if I rushed or was moving.

I would forget that pressing the shutter button and hearing a click did not mean the camera was finished taking the shot.  Dependant on the lighting conditions the XA3 sets the shutter speed automatically but there is no way to know what this is.  Time after time I would click the button, forget and move.  Then I would hear the camera click again and realise I’d ruined the shot.

Party Boat Bangkok

Oddly I think this is a happy accident. Party Boat. Olympus XA3

This was not helped by the camera is so light.  It can be hard to keep it steady as you need some weight to ensure that you can keep the camera stable and this isn’t the case.

I also think the alignment of the viewfinder and the final photo is slightly off.  I have many photos from the trips with artefacts in them I did not see when I was shooting.  This is unusual for my film photography as I do this to slow down and look.   I don’t understand why certain things crept into the shots – maybe I wasn’t seeing them clearly enough or maybe the final shot is wider than the viewfinder…Don’t get me wrong, as a travel camera and a pocketable 35mm, this is a great little piece of kit. I don’t think it warrants the hype or the ever-increasing price tag though.

Unusually I shot colour film for the Thailand trip (I normally prefer black and white), but as I was expecting (and got) a lot of vibrant things to shoot, I wanted to ensure the film matched the surroundings.

Drag Boat, Olympus XA3

Drag Boat, Olympus XA3

Holding up traffic, Olympus XA3

Holding up traffic, Olympus XA3

Wat Aran, Bangkok Olympus XA3

Wat Aran, Bangkok Olympus XA3

I do have some bright, sharp and clear photos which I am really happy with.  When bright and steady the Olympus XA3 metered well and I produced lovely photos.  Those that merge between travel photographs and tourist photography.

I have learnt to stop being impulsive with my purchases, to ignore the internet (yeah right) and to kerb my enthusiasm for new gear (no comment).

I’ve also learnt there are some great entry-level cameras out there and some great tools to keep on you all the time, but you have to be wary of their limitations.

I still like the XA3 but I am not sure I would use it again.  Maybe I should try and recoup my costs and put it on eBay (anyone interested!)

Keith Tomlinson – ContinuousFocus.co.uk
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Thoughts on Shooting Film

My First two rolls of Ilford Ortho Plus

I must admit, I wasn’t all that excited when Ilford Ortho Plus was announced. I mean, I was enthused by the fact that Ilford had brought a new stock to 120 and 35mm – this sort of activity bodes fantastically well for the state of the industry – but on a personal level I just saw it as a specialist film that I probably wouldn’t shoot. Stupid Hamish, crap conclusion, I actually love it!

As regular readers will know I’ve been primarily shooting with Kodak P3200 as a black & white film of choice recently. I love that stuff, it’s so versatile and has a great look to it. Funnily enough though, after shooting it almost exclusively for quite some time now, I’ve developed a little bit of a desire to shoot something with a little bit less grain. I’ve got a stock of HP5 in the fridge, so have been expecting to find myself defaulting back to that at some point. That point never came though… perhaps because of my now overly-documented grumpiness…

What instead happened was a short email from Michelle at Ilford asking if I might like to try a couple of rolls of Ilford Ortho Plus. With nothing to lose, of course I agreed. A week or so later I had a plan to visit Paul from Analogue Wonderland. We were going to meet, have a bit of a chat on camera for my (very slow burning) YouTube channel and then go and take a few photos nearby. He’d not shot Ilford Ortho Plus yet at that point either, so it felt like a good opportunity for us both to give it a run.

When we first met and had a coffee in a little cafe near where he lives the sun was out, then as Sod’s law would have it, as soon as we started our way to the car the weather started changing. By the time we got to the area he wanted to go shooting it was raining, cloudy and very cold. Not exactly ideal weather for shooting an ISO80 film – especially as I’d elected to shoot a roll of 120 in my Makina.

Fortunately, it was just about light enough for me to shoot handheld at 1/60th and f/4 or 1/125 and f/2.8. Because I was freezing and actually shivering a fair amount, a lot of the photos were shot wide open. I mentioned this to really highlight the point that the aesthetic of the outcome really was as much, if not more of a product of circumstance than creative desire. In fact, walking around in the freezing cold, I was a little concerned that I was wasting the film on what would be largely out of focus or motion-blurry photos. It really was that cold and hard to concentrate…

As it turned out, the combination of wide open shooting, the tonality and sharpness of the film and the crap English weather would all add up to something a lot more special than I expected. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not about to claim some sort of compositional genius here. Me and Paul actually joked a fair bit as we walked around about how we were just taking facsimiles of millions of other photos of lone trees and the like. But, nonetheless, what’s innate in this film’s character is still very evident, and as such I was actually quite blown away by the results I got… despite them not being the best photos I’ve ever taken.

First roll of Ortho

First roll of Ortho

First roll of Ortho

First roll of Ortho

First roll of Ortho

Spurred on by this success I decided I would shoot the roll of 35mm whilst out on a photo walk I organised in Worcester a few weeks later. I knew I was going to be taking a lot of photos that I’d taken before – I have walked the walk we all went on a lot of times with a camera before – but was still really interested to see how the results came out.

On this occasion I was shooting my Konica Hexar with the Minolta G-Rokkor 28mm f/3.5. This lens vignettes a bit, though I had a good feeling this might add something to the look of the images from this film – especially when shooting the industrial estate I had in mind. Again nothing new or world changing in these images, but I’m really pleased with how they came out.

I had both rolls developed by Duncan at SilverPan Film lab – I just went with his advice for the development process. He tells me they were developed in Perceptol for 8.30 minutes at 24 degrees in his Jobo. The negs were also scanned in such a way as to retain as much of the innate character of the film as possible, I also didn’t tweak them very much at all in Lightroom. Only a couple of adjustments to the horizon and a slight crop to couple of the frames of 120 and some very slight adjustments to contrast on the 35mm roll (mainly to combat my lackadaisical exposure). As such, these images should fairly strongly indicative of what you can expect from this film.

Ilford Ortho 35mm test roll

Ilford Ortho 35mm test roll

Ilford Ortho 35mm test roll

Ilford Ortho 35mm test roll

Ilford Ortho 35mm test roll

Ilford Ortho 35mm test roll

Ilford Ortho 35mm test roll

Ilford Ortho 35mm test roll

Ilford Ortho 35mm test roll

To my eye, and obviously this is based on two rolls both developed in the same chemical, there’s something here that I can definitely see me getting onboard with. The ISO80 film speed is a little bit of a limitation of course, but the gains in terms of the lack of grain and sharpness seem quite evident to me. With a little bit more thought, I could see myself getting into this film for landscape work. Sometime last year I started compiling some of my favourite bleak landscape images on my website in a bid to inspire me to capture more similar shots. It didn’t really work, but actually looking at those images, I could see this film working very well for that sort of style.

What’s particularly nice about the contrast is the way shadows seem to naturally fall off quite quickly, yet there still seems to be a lot of detail in the mid-tones. I often tweak my black and white images in this direction anyway, so having something that works like this naturally might work really well for me. But as I say, this is just gut response from two rolls, I have a way to go yet before properly getting to grips with. It’s definitely a film I will be shooting more throughout this year though. In fact, as soon as Paul gets more in stock I’ll definitely be ordering a 5 Pack of 120!

Words of thanks and recommendation

Finally, I just want to say a thanks to both Ilford Photo and Duncan from Silverpan Film Labs. Ilford supplied the film for this post, and Duncan is doing an excellent job at developing the film I shoot as well as giving me useful and insightful feedback – this being a service he offers to all of his customers.

If you want to buy this film, I also recommend Analogue Wonderland as my chosen film supplier. They stock Ilford Ortho Plus, but also supply something like 200 other films making the website interesting to explore as well as purchase from.

Digital Cameras Thoughts on Cameras

Using the Fujifilm X100F like an Analog Rangefinder – By Steven Bleistein

I shoot film, but I am no analog zealot. For me, shooting film is rarely about the film. It is always about the experience shooting with some of the best cameras the world has ever known, and at this point in history, most of those cameras are not digital. However, when I do shoot digital, I like to shoot in the same way I shoot film. With the Fujifilm X100F, I can.

Just to be clear, this piece is not a review of the X100F. If you are interested in one, there are plenty all over the internet. Rather, this is a piece about technique. So if you want to use a digital camera in the same way you might use a fully manual analog one, then you have come to the right place. Or if you want to become a better analog shooter by first practicing on a digital camera like the X100F, then read on. The photos in this piece I took during a recent trip to Hanoi, Vietnam shooting with my Fujifilm X100F with its fixed Fujinon Aspherical Super EBC 23mm (35mm equivalent) f/2 lens in exactly the same I shoot my analog Leica M3 rangefinder with an eight-element Summicron 35mm f/2.

Street photography is what I love most. When I see a scene, a person, or a group of people I want to capture with my lens, I have to act fast. You might think that the manual settings of the Leica M3 and its M-mount lenses would be hopelessly slow, whereas the automatic settings of the X100F would be lightning fast by comparison, but it is the opposite that is true. 

In fact, the X100F, despite its reputation for decent speed in autofocus, is no match for street scenes in motion. Between the time I push the shutter button to the time the X100F exposes its sensor, my subject has often walked out of my frame and I capture a photo of, well, nothing at all. Manual focus with with my Leica M3 is far faster and more reliable, as long as I do things right, and the same is true of the X100F in manual focus mode if I use it like a Leica. 

With the Leica M3, I often zone focus for speed, and use a lens with focus a tab. My Leica Summicron 35mm lens has a focus tab, which allows me to keep track of focal distance by feel, and make rapid adjustments as needed. As long as I am aware of my depth of field, I can make rapid adjustments and know where my focus is simply by the focus tab position—whether six, four, or eight o’clock.

A technique that I often use in street photography with my Leica M3 is to set the focus at infinity and then bring the focus closer as I am walking towards my subject. When images line up in the focus patch, or at least close enough, I release the shutter. I can use exactly the same technique on the Fujifilm X100F in manual focus mode. The X100F focus ring however has no tab, and is not mechanical ether. I can turn the focus ring endlessly if I want. There is no discernible reference to focal distance from feel alone. To make matters worse, default rotation of the focus ring is the opposite of the Summicron.

Despite this, I can set up the X100F lens focus to behave like a manual Summicron lens. First, I change the default rotation in the X100F settings so clockwise rotation brings the focus closer, and counterclockwise pushes it out farther. I can also attach a tab as an accessory. Taab makes rubber ring tabs for lenses that lack one, and one of the larger ones fits perfectly on the X100F focus ring. Still I need to have a focal distance reference position for the tab. So I move the tab to six o’clock, point the camera to the ground, and push the auto focus lock button to set the focus distance to about 1.5m. The X100F remembers the position even when you turn the camera off or switch back manual focus mode. This way, I can know the focus distance immediately by focus ring tab position like with the Summicron lens.

Unlike the Leica lenses and other manual lenses, there are no indicators for focus distance and depth of field on the lens itself. However, the X100F has an option to display depth of field range on a scale in the viewfinder. Be sure to select the “film” option for depth of field, as that gives the most realistic depth of field range perceptible to the human eye.

Depth of field range on the crop sensor of the X100F is substantially wider than the equivalent on a full frame Leica M, whether digital or film. So zone focusing is far more forgiving on a crop sensor. If you would like to know what the ranges are, check out this online depth of field calculator from Photopills. The X100F has no focus patch like a Leica M camera, but does have multiple options for focus when in manual mode. I find peaking using the EVF to be the easiest for working quickly, but you can choose whichever works best for you.

I don’t need auto exposure to be fast, not with the Leica M3 nor with the X100F. I use my eyes as a light meter, and if you know what you are doing, you can too. If I am out in the city on the streets of Ginza on a partly cloudy day with intermittent sun, there are only three lighting conditions about which I need to be aware. In the sun, under partial cloud cover, and in the shade of buildings. I typically shoot Kodak T-Max 100 at EL 640 and push process to get the results I want. So, if my subject is out in the sunlight, I shoot at 1/500th of second at f/16. Partial cloud cover? f/11 will do. In the shade of buildings, f/5.6 is usually fine, or if it deep shade maybe f/4.

I don’t need to touch the shutter speed dial, just leave it on 1/500th. I do however need to be aware of my surroundings as I pass through different kinds of light and adjust my aperture as needed. I can make equivalent adjustments to shutter speed if I prefer to make my aperture the priority. If you have not yet learned how shutter speed, aperture, and ISO work together, 35mmc has an excellent explanation here. If you don’t know how to measure light with your eyes rather than a light meter, a good explanation can be found here. If you are unsure of what the lighting conditions require, just perform a few simple tests when you set out and then go manual. Usually as you are walking around in the streets, there are only three or four settings you will need.

With the X100F, I have a lot of options for automatic exposure when I prefer to use them. Full auto is of course an option, but I can also set a constant ISO and choose either aperture or shutter speed priority. I can even make both aperture and shutter speed constant and set the ISO to automatic. None of the automatic exposure settings slow the camera down significantly, so if speed is what you want there is little concern. However, with auto exposure the camera can get it wrong, particularly when you have to move fast, just like with analog cameras with autoexposure like the Leica M7 and the Minolta CLE. Whether to use automatic modes is up to you.

Hamish Gill, who owns and edits 35mmc, writes about the his frustrations with the X100F here, and also lure of the uncomplicated camera. The Fujifilm X100F can be complicated with its labyrinthine menu system and myriad function buttons, but does not have to be, as long as you are willing to ignore all that. You merely need to have the discipline to do so. So even when you shoot digital, I recommend having that discipline. The practice will make you a better photographer  when you know how to control the camera yourself to get the results you want, whether digital, analog, or both.

Some final notes: Don’t think you need a Fujifilm X100F to use the techniques I have described here. All of the Fujifilm digital cameras function mostly the same way, as long as they have dials with numbers rather than letters. And you don’t need to break the bank with the latest and greatest models either. The older X100T, X100S, and X100 are all about the same, as are the three generations of X-Pro cameras. In any case, most of the technical improvements on the newer models are related to automated functions, which for the techniques described above are ignored anyway. In manual mode, the older models perform mostly the same as the newer ones.

You also don’t need a Fujifilm model with the hybrid optical/EVF finders that you find on the X100 and X-Pro series cameras. While much fuss has been made about these finders as Leica-like, the Fujifilm optical finders bear little resemblance to their analog equivalents on rangefinder cameras. The Fujifilm optical finder is more of a novelty in my view–a lot of fun and not really that important.

And don’t think you need to stick with Fujifilm either. Other manufacturers also make cameras that mimic analog camera settings. You can use all the techniques mentioned above with the Lumix LX100 and LX100 II as well as with their Leica-branded doppelgänger D-Lux models if you must. You have options from which to choose. It’s all up to you.

I am a street photographer who lives in Japan. If you would like to see more of my work, have a look at my website bleisteinphoto.com, or my Instagram @sbleistein

That time I shot with a...

That time I shot Instax film in a Mamiya 6, upside-down – By Gilbert Townshend

I have over the past five years developed either passion or an obsession for instant films, depending on who you should choose to ask. Growing up just on the cusp of the digital imaging revolution I remember quite a lot people shooting on film as I grew up but somehow Polaroid passed me by almost entirely. There’s a teenage shot of me shaking my head but that’s about it. By the time I reached university I ended up shooting a couple of packs of the now sadly demised FP-100b/c as proofing material but never got that excited by it, it was just something that was there until it wasn’t.

Finally buying myself a Land camera a few years later, only to be suddenly informed that film for it no longer existed, I tried turning to the alternatives. The most logical, certainly the most loudly marketed was the Impossible Project revival of integral film. I even happened to win a competition for a refurbished basic 600 series camera but three packs and lots of jammed brown photos later I swore off it as unreliable, expensive and irritatingly missing two shots in a box.

After that I bought a cheap second hand Instax wide camera and while I really loved the film, the camera left an awful lot to be desired. No manual controls (though in this it was much like the Polaroids), no ability to turn off the flash and even no way to focus save ‘close’ and ‘not so close’ (I’m not convinced it does infinity). I kept it for parties, bright days and when I wanted a physical print to give to people.

So still feeling rather frustrated by the state of instant film I ended up stumbling on the fairly weird, deeply ungainly but also amazing Polaroid back for Mamiya rangefinders.

Mamiya film backs

Original back (top) Polaroid back (bottom)

This thing is clearly a mixture between clever engineering and a bloke in his shed making them a dozen at a time. Virtually all medium format cameras that can shoot Polaroids are system cameras, one removes the standard film back and replaces it with an instant film one which sits up at the same focal plane with some masking depending on the format. Not so with this one. As the Mamiya 6 & 7 do not have removable film backs, this is the combination of a standard Polaroid back with what looks suspiciously like the back plate of a Mamiya with a hole sawed in the middle of it. To attach it to your camera one must unscrew the existing plate and attach the new one with a very home-made spring loaded pin that clicks into place.

Because the pressure plate is further forward of the Polaroid back this leads to a problem. Focus where you think you want and your shot is going to be out by about a centimetre, the back is physically further away than it needs to be out of pure geometry. This is however where it gets clever. The manufacturers included a fibre optic plate of the right thickness to shift the focal plane back far enough to allow it to resolve at just the right distance to hit the instant film. Genius! Incredibly expensive and fragile, but genius all the same. They are, it may not be a surprise to hear, now defunct.

Now you may be thinking, this is all well and good but this is a (peel apart) Polaroid back, it suffers from the same problem as a Land camera, in that there is no more film and this time you’re only shooting a 6x6cm section of it. Which is of course true.

And yet.

It fits Instax film.

Unloaded polaroid back

The polaroid back, empty.

Loaded polaroid back

The back with a sheet of sacrificial film in place

It doesn’t fit Instax film well; the wide format has its developing pod on the long edge, where peel apart has it on the short one. But it does cover the fibre optic plate and physically fits inside the back, with one slight caveat. That it will only fit neatly with the developing pod the wrong way up. On an Instax wide the film ejects with the pod at the top as the lens flips the image. Inside this holder the pod has to fit at the bottom, which therefore leads to having the pod at the top of where it would be usually or, well, one has to hold the camera upside down.

With foam padding

One other thing I have neglected to mention, it being panchromatic colour film, the loading of this has to be done in a dark bag, making sure to get the orientation correct and avoiding oily fingerprints. After lining it up I used a small piece of foam to ensure firm but even pressure and to stop the sheet rattling around inside the back.

Rear view

Front view

Which finally leads to the abomination that is Instax wide film, in a Mamiya 6, shot upside-down and requiring five minutes in a dark back with your tongue stuck out to both load and unload the film. The Polaroid back protrudes enough that it makes it difficult to get your eye close enough to frame a shot, made even worse for those of us who use glasses. Having it upside down also makes the camera harder to hold and hitting the shutter an exercise in extreme frustration, I quickly found a cable release made it slightly easier to manage.

The upside-down nature also removes the possibility of using a tripod, though for long exposures the annoyance of having the film pod on the top is doubtless something that can be overlooked.

Un/Reloading the Instax

When unloading I used an empty holder that the Instax film comes in, re-inserted my now exposed sheet, placed it in a legitimate Instax camera and fired the shutter to eject the film. It’s also wise to get used to the shape and feel of the film packs, several times I have ended up wasting sheets by either loading them with the wrong face into the camera or ejected them with the pod on the wrong side of the rollers. By experience (the pod hopefully being obvious) I have found that the side to face towards you has a slight texture to help it catch on the rollers, the light sensitive side does not.  In about the only stroke of luck this project has had, the first shot on an Instax will not expose the film and just eject what it thinks is the dark slide. Despite this it’s probably worth covering the lens if you feel like attempting anything this ridiculous yourself lest you accidentally double expose your labourious work.

I have other plans for instant film soon that will, hopefully, be rather more usable than this.

Gilbert

Thoughts on Cameras Thoughts on Shooting Film

My Joy in Getting back into Film Photography – by David Mitchell

Like many others my introduction to photography was through film – my Dad’s 35mm Yashica originally before moving on to digital. I developed and printed my own prints for a few years – I enjoyed the process but the point at which digital became viable and instantaneous drew me away. Over the years I had bought some vintage cameras as I came across them cheap – mostly because I liked the look of them and was interested in the technological development.

Some twenty years have passed and I have enjoyed some fantastic digital cameras – Nikon D3x and D810 and Fuji X series most recently but the digital capture and digital presentation (Flickr and social media) left me feeling there was a bit of a gap. I thought it was the printed image and in part it was but eventually realised that the ‘workflow’ of capturing and processing digital images was getting a bit robotic.

I found an old F50 body in the attic and bought some TMAX – being able to use my modern F lenses was great of course and the results were good. What instantly came back was that notion that you have to think – each frame is precious and not to be wasted – that appealed. 

F50 with TMAX100 – Dun Carloway Broch on the Isle of Lewis

A lunchtime walk at work one day had me in an antique shop looking at an F2 with a 1.2 50mm. I remembered I had always wanted a ‘proper’ F camera and couldn’t afford one as a student so the inevitable happened – I also love 50mm primes….

I replaced the light seals on the camera and made some minor repairs. I loved using it – I liked the mechanics and having to think about exposure and settings etc. Process and scanning was a new development to me and whilst not cheap it seemed to give me the best of both and allowed me play digitally with the analogue images. 

Rummaging around the internet I learned that there was this whole community out there (including this site!) and I also realised that the cameras I used to dream about as a teenager were now pretty cheap in the grand scheme of things. I used to lust after a Hasselblad 500C but that seemed a little expensive for something I wasn’t quite sure about, so I looked at Bronica, Mamiya and Pentax medium format. I went for the RB67 Pro S Mamiya with a 127mm F3.8 lens and found a lovely example in Japan for what seemed like a bargain (yes I forgot about the duty and the VAT on the duty……hey ho….) 

I opened up the box and having never used a medium format camera before was left thinking ‘was this a smart move ????’ The internet provided some great advice as ever and I actually found myself enjoying the foibles of this mechanical marvel  – shutter won’t fire ? Forgot to take the dark slide out…..doh and so on. 

Its a monster no doubt but I didn’t buy it to carry around. I have an old Manfrotto tripod that is similarly heavy duty and they get along fine. I am only six rolls of film in but I love it. The mechanics of it are glorious and that shutter sound is just awesome. It’s expensive enough to make you stop and think about exposing film and it makes me slow down. I have a really busy job and this just feels like an antidote to doing everything at 100 miles per hour. 

View of Stirling Castle through the Mamiya RB67

One thing I have not been able to get used to is the chimney viewfinder  – the whole back to front thing I guess you would get used to but I am not using enough for that so a prism finder has been requested from Santa this year.

I have been using T Max100 but on a recent visit to Rome I purchased some Rollei and Washi film from the great shop of Art Imago – the folks who sell the daylight developing tank (yes I did think about it).

I have a weakness for old things ( I work in the heritage sector) and over the past while found myself on eBay and looking in junk shops for film stuff……I have had some fun with a Lubitel 166b and Ektar including a double exposure error of my friends on a photography weekend I actually really like. They have watched this film thing progressing with some amusement and are one by one on the fringes of engagement. We all use Nikon digital gear so I bought a couple of F50 bodies for £20 (bargain !) recently and a roll of TMAX 400 which they were given as a challenge – one was used in Rome and the other has gone to Canada and I await to see the results – not that we are in any way competitive….

Lubitel 166b and a happy accidental double exposure…

I also recalled that we had an old Rolleicord belonging to my wife’s grandfather who had passed on a few years back. He and I had talked about cameras a fair bit – including him telling me about the Leicas he had sold and me rolling my eyes in horror…. Anyway, we found it in a box of mementos from his house and I got onto the internet to do some research. 

1939 Rolleicord – a family heirloom

Research is a kind of a thing for me in any case (occupational hazard I guess) but it was pretty tough – the volume of these cameras and variations made were just huge. However some kind folks helped me out and I was able to narrow it down to being one of about 400 made for the Berlin Police in 1939. Wow. How it ended up in Edinburgh I have no idea but he had been in India during the war so we reckon it was a house sale purchase maybe. I do know however he would have been really chuffed I was using it and thats kind of cool. 

I had been pristine but stored in an old and cold house so was suffering from mould. I read up and took it apart to clean and got it all together. I have only put one film through it but the lens quality was really surprising – this camera has real potential and certainly puts the £20 Lubitel in the shade….

So where next ? 

I have a long way to go with the RB67 but I am going to stick with it. I am finding myself with too many cameras when I go out (is that possible ?) but it’s nice to use the Nikon digital then switch to film afterwards or even spot something that would suit film better and switch from one to the other. This week I am going to have an induction at Stills photography centre in Edinburgh – long established they provide good value access to film scanners and dark rooms and training courses too. It’s worth it I think because the costs of developing are ok commercially but scanning makes it pretty expensive. 

I have also 3d printed the Goodman Zone camera – if you have not seen it take a look – very steampunk – and what’s great is that it is designed to work with the Mamiya RB67 back. I have yet to put it all together but looks like fun.

3d printed parts for a Goodman zone camera – uses a Mamiya RB67 back

The vintage collection has grown a little more and there is always the Hasselblad 500c and a big birthday coming up….

David Mitchell 

Flickr https://www.flickr.com/photos/lesleyanddavidandbenanddaniel/
Twitter @dsm888
Goodman cameras https://www.doragoodman.com

Inspiration Photo-Philosophy

On Finding inspiration (Don’t hold your breath) – By David Hume

“It is a mistake for any artist to think that their personal world is interesting. It is not. What is interesting is to use the personal to arrive at the universal.”

The above is my latest manifesto, written last week. Artists often write statements and manifestos as a way of clarifying their intention for themselves, and explaining it to others. These change and evolve over time.

Below is what I wrote a year ago:

“Photographers need to learn to see deeply, to be receptive of what is there but not quite visible. We choose our place, and we choose our moment, and we make an image. We owe it to that image to be as sure as we can be about what we were doing there. And it’s not about claiming a trophy shot of a snow covered peak, or photoshopping a coastline at sunset until the colour hurts your eyes. It’s about knowing what it is that you’re looking at. It’s about respect for the process, and respect for the place where you’re making the image. It’s about trying to look out, to seek that little bit of the sublime that we can never really find, but that we have to keep looking for, because we know it’s there and we care about it and we want to be able to show it to others.”

So why share this?

Well, it’s partly in an effort to help others. We all learn from what others are doing, and it’s good to put it out there.

It’s also selfish. It will help my work if I take the time to distill my thoughts in to a form that is readable by others.

This form of clarification is also very useful in allowing inspiration to come. If you have taken the time to think about why it is you want to make photos, and what you want those photos to be about, the process becomes easier.

I’m writing this also in response to a few things I’ve been reading on the sites I follow about photographers who feel they lack inspiration. How they’re feeling down about it and looking for the new camera, lens or film stock that will help them out.
This can be futile and depressing, because it won’t work. It might work for a little while, but ultimately it’s a road to nowhere.

Don’t get me wrong: I have way too many cameras. My office is described as a “camera petting zoo” by my daughter. I love cameras and I like buying them and playing with them. But I do not believe this is in any way related to whether I can make decent work out of it all.

I have two or three cameras at any time that I know and understand, and a couple of standard film stocks to use.

You do need to have the technical facility to realise your vision, but seriously folks, taking a photo is not that hard.

Where most of the work needs to be done is in refining your intent and vision, working out what you want to do, and then finding a way to do it.

Inspiration?
Don’t expect it.

This is worth repeating. DO NOT EXPECT TO BE INSPIRED.

It seems that people think if they grab a Leica and walk around the block they’ll magically become Henri Cartier-Bresson. Ain’t gonna happen. What will happen is you’ll get a few dud shots that some kind people on Instie or fb will say are great.

Inspiration is great and wonderful, but it’s RARE. That’s right. It won’t come every day. Your mileage may vary, but I’m happy to be inspired three or four times a year.

When you’re not inspired there’s still lots you can do. That’s when you play with gear, work on technique. It’s when you review your old work and look for something you’ve missed.

There is no need to make new work all the time.

Case in point. I’ve just got back from two weeks in Venice where I shot two projects. I shot four rolls of 135 and four rolls of 120. I’ve got enough out of that to keep me working for a couple of years at least. Admittedly it’s a bit easier for me because I paint as well, and I’ll be mucking about making books and writing stories, as well as working on new techniques of overpainting the photos. But the principle is there.

It’s okay not to shoot. Why shoot if you’re not inspired? Or if you do shoot, don’t expect it to be great. It won’t be great – and that’s no problem.

If I grabbed a camera today and tried to force something to happen I would come back with nothing but shit, so I won’t bother. Now, I must make the distinction that this is different from commercial photography. In a way commercial is easier, because the client has given you the brief and you know what to do. The satisfaction I get from that is from problem solving and using my skills to do a job successfully.

So: back to inspiration. Here’s the how to:

I’ll use my recent Venice trip as an example. For this example I’ll only refer to the second project, which I have called Dreaming in Red. I shot it on two rolls of HP5. (These are the shots in this story of course)

Before I’d even left the country I knew what I wanted to do. I had one idea that I was confident in, and a couple of others that I thought may or may not work.

So. What is your vision? Write it down.

OK – mine is to make something universal from the personal. There. Easy.

Now, more specifically with this work, I’m looking at themes of memory and loss. I’m trying to create a feeling of vague unease and longing. OK – all good so far.

OK then, why choose Venice?

  • I love it to death. It’s my favourite city and the most beautiful city on earth.
  • I’ve paid my dues there. I’ve been there for three months in eight trips over 30 years. I feel I have the right to photograph there. (There are only a few places I feel I have this right)
  • It’s universal – it speaks to everyone.

So the inspiration. Was I inspired? Yes. I got lucky. But as well as having a plan, I did what I could to put the odds in my favour.

  • I gave myself two weeks to work in.
  • I chose a time of year where I thought the weather would be what I wanted.
  • I got up in the dark every day for two weeks and walked down to the square with my cameras.

Technically, I knew what my lenses would give me and what the film would give me. I knew how to use my gear. That’s about all really. After that it’s just about staying receptive to what’s there and putting in the work.

And lastly, I used my experience.

I used what I had learned in the past: Back in 1994 I had signed up for a show with a gallery and set off to Venice to do my paintings. I had one month there. After two weeks I had nothing. I had been trying to force it and it didn’t work. I thought “Oh shit, this could go badly.”

I relaxed, the inspiration came and I made a painting a day for the last two weeks. You can’t force it. It might work out, it might not. So don’t sweat it, just give yourself the best chance and enjoy it when it happens.

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