Friday 18 November 2016

A Little Break

Nikon F3HP, Neopan 100SS

So there hasn't been much shooting in the last month. A fairly minor but annoying problem with my knee forced me to take a break from long walks, and thus also from much shooting activity. It has been resolved and I'll be shooting some more for the remainder of the year. I don't however expect to hit either my next checkpoint of 46 rolls or my final goal of 52 rolls for the year unless something unusual occurs. I'm currently at 29 rolls shot this year and I'd have to average 3 or more rolls a week for the next 6 weeks to hit those goals, which is unlikely.

That said, I do hope to finish in the mid 30's, a solid base for increasing my shooting activity for next year. And as long as I'm shooting steadily, I have a basis for improving the quality of my work at the same time.

Right now I see film continuing to increase its role in my shooting. Frankly, the D90 is not doing much for me overall. It's a competent but uninspiring camera to work with and I've also been struggling with focus issues with mine. Combine that with the fact I'm shooting more colour film and you have a situation where digital just isn't a huge need for me.

Saturday 15 October 2016


Peeking Out 
Nikon N6000 (F601m), Nikon Series E 50mm f1.8, Fujifilm Neopan 100SS

Had a scanner casualty this week, my trusty Epson Perfection 4870 finally expired after more than a decade of regular use. This has been my flatbed of choice for a long time, scanning all my Medium Format & Large Format work as well as my 35mm since my Minolta Scan Dual IV died. After a quick check online to make sure my ANR inserts and 120 holder were compatible I replaced it with a V500 at a superb price. While it's technically a lower-end scanner (the 4870's modern equivalent is  the V800) the V500's faster, has better resolution and DMax and can handle all my current needs. If I ever start shooting LF again, I'll need to look at upgrading to regain compatibility with sheet film (the 4870 could do 4x5, while the V500 does 120/220 as it's largest supported film type).

On the plus side, I acquired a very nice bit of glass, the Zeiss ZF.2 85/1.4 Planar and have been shooting with it constantly. Looking forward to seeing the first results on film in an hour or so when the first roll finishes drying. I do like it on the D90, but that's a bit of a waste as an application, due to the crop factor.

Friday 7 October 2016

A Little Action Today

Standing on the Corner 
F3HP, Fujifilm Neopan 100SS, Likely Nikkor 35/2 AI

Due to a slight change in my travel scheduling for this Thanksgiving Weekend, I got some time to get out and photowalk today. I ended up shooting 4 rolls of HP5+, bringing that emulsion to 141 total rolls and exceeding my former most used film (Tri-X 400, at 139 rolls). That also brings me to 24 rolls for the year, 2 off my initial goal of 1 roll every 2 weeks, or 26 rolls total. The next goal is 46 rolls, matching my 35mm usage in 2012.

This gave me a chance to work out the FG a little more, about half my shooting today was with the FG, I pretty much left the 28/3.5 on it and my 50/1.8 on either the N6000 or the EM. I was burning a roll on the N6000 so I could reload it with some colour film and after that was done pretty much stuck to using the FG & EM, swapping bodies as I wanted the lens mounted. It's just quicker to swap between two small bodies that to switch between two lenses on the same body and the EM makes a nice second body when shooting with the FG (and they take all the same accessories too, a nice bonus). I'm liking the FG, it actually reminds me of the X-700 a lot, just about every aspect of the X-700 that I really liked is duplicated in the FG. The only missing items are an AE-lock (and the FG has the 2-stop backlight button) and DoF preview (which I never used much). Kinda funny that the X-700 was the flasghip Minolta while the FG was a bargain-basement Nikon yet they are pretty much identical in capability.

Unfortunately, I also discovered today what has happened to film prices in the last 4-5 years. They've doubled for colour film, and gone up even more than that for B&W. I used to pay $56 for a 100' roll of Tri-X, it's $226 now. Per roll used to be $4 or so, now it's just over $12 (yep, the $5 in savings between 18 rolls of TX400 and a bulk roll make buying bulk pointless now). I guess it's too be expected as the non-serious film shooter has pretty much disappeared and they kept the prices low for the serious shooter. But on the good side, my local store, which used to be Fuji/Kodak/Ilford only, is now carrying at least two other options for B&W Film (Rollei/Agfa and Japan Camera Hunter) and is also selling imported Japanese Fuji stocks (Natura in particular). Cost is up, but so is selection again.

Wednesday 5 October 2016

Still Kickin'

Do Not Steal 
Minolta X-700, MD Rokkor 45mm f2, Ilford PanF+ in Rodinal 1:100

Yep, still around. Been a busy couple of months for me in non-photographic areas, so not too much has happened. I did still have time to shoot a bit, bringing myself up to 20 rolls for the year and around 1500 digital shots. The D90's treating me just fine for digital and I've almost got my basic film kit sorted after picking up a dirt cheap FG to replace the X-700 and a Nikkor-H 28/3.5 AI'd for a mild wide. That leaves me with a primary film kit of the FG with an EM for a backup, the 28/3.5 and a 50/1.8 Series E. I need to add a 100/2.8E or 105/2.5 to round things out for now.

I find film occupying more and more of my interest these days, so I'm expecting to see the rollcount start growing again now that the things that have been occupying my attention for the last 6 weeks should be resolved. I expect to break 26 rolls without issues this month, and 52 for the year is not out of reach at all. Heck, I might even shoot a little colour film.

Friday 12 August 2016

16 and Counting

Respect Our Neighbours
Nikon EM, 50mm f1.8 Series E, Ilford HP5+

Finished roll number sixteen of 2016 this morning, tying my count for 2014 and the highest number of rolls I've shot from 2013 on. It was a roll of HP5+ through my EM.

I've also sold the X-700. Great camera, but Minolta isn't where I want to go. I've finally made a call on direction, I'm going all-in on Nikon again. The system just works for me for the most part. not perfect but more than acceptable.

I'm most likely going to put together a pretty similar system to what I had before getting the D700 a couple years ago. I really don't need much. So I traded off the G3 for a D90. That gives me a body to play with on the Nikon side for now.

Thursday 11 August 2016

No Parking

Loading Dock 1
Mamiya 645 Super, 45/2.8 C, TriX@1600

This is the sort of urban geographic shot that I love taking. There's a range of tones and textures all over the shot and all unique to the city. These sorts of small scenes just fascinate me endlessly.

It's also something I struggle to find these days, much of the urban light industrial character of Toronto has been disappearing into endless condo developments. While on one side this is a good thing, I do regret the loss of much of the character of Toronto's downtown core.

Tuesday 9 August 2016

Ode to the EM

Red Sky At Night
Nikon EM, Sigma Super-Wide II 24mm f2.8,Ektachrome 100EC

 If the Nikon FM2n is my all-time favourite camera, the EM is my favourite cheap SLR (yes, even more so than the Cosina SLR's which I love).

Simple, small & cheap. Not too complex. Slap a lens on and shoot. That's the EM. I've owned 4-5 of them over the years, including my first SLR, bought in 1993 with a 50/1.8E, Vivitar 283 and a Tamron 70-210 f4-5.6. Shot a lot with that before I got rid of it after acquiring an F801s (another camera I've owned a bunch of copies of). The only camera I've ever had stolen was an EM (with a 100/2.8 Series E)

The EM will always have an opening in my bag, especially if paired with a 35/2.5 or 50/1.8 Series E. It's too cheap and too fun not to. It's simply the camera I chose as a car/desk camera to always have around.

If you shoot Nikon MF, grab one. You'll only be out $25 or so (my average purchase price, current one was free as a rear lens cap). Throw some cheap film through it and have fun.

Thursday 4 August 2016

Just Shooting

GX7, Olympus m.Zuiko 25mm f1.8

It's been a couple weeks since my last post, and yes, I have been shooting. I've been pushing myself to do more walking and it's been helping with my shooting as well.

I like carrying a pretty minimalist kit when walking, a body and a normal is usually enough. This typically ends up being either the GX7 and the 25/1.8 or the X-700 and the 45/2. Even better is a mild wide in the pocket, and maybe a short tele. I don't have that full setup yet with either kit, but in both cases I'm a single $200-ish lens away. I do need to round out both kits.

I also need to get out of the city and do some hiking. This summer has had me out of the city a fair bit, but only for rc flying, not for photography or hiking. I need to change that. This weekend is in fact a good possibility, being too windy to fly, but also looking good weather-wise. Time to find a destination.

Thursday 14 July 2016

Whither Full Frame

Timmy's and a Laker
D700, 35/1.8G DX (in FX mode)

There is a certain expectation that a serious photographer will be shooting a Full Frame camera. I don't and I get asked occasionally why I don't.

The reality is I don't need Full Frame. I've taken 2 kicks at that can and may take another in the near future, but so far my experience is that the gains of FF (IQ, wide lens options) do not exceed the downsides (size, weight, cost) for my shooting style. Note this is from a perspective of someone who shoots handheld much more than on a tripod and prefers a smaller, less obtrusive camera.

The gear head in me wants to be shooting FF. The IQ certainly is nice (the D600 remains the best camera I've owned in terms of IQ) and I do like the big viewfinder. But I don't like carrying big & heavy cameras like the D700 or D600, and especially not ones with poor grips like the D600.

I find the IQ from 16MP m43 camera's to be entirely acceptable and today's 24MP APS-C camera's are so good I don't really need anything more in terms of IQ. Lens lineups in mirrorless have all my needs pretty much covered, while the DSLR world is good but not ideal (not enough wide prime options for non-Pentax shooters, Pentax's 14/2.8 and 15/4 make a huge difference for a wide to short tele shooter like myself). I'd be perfectly happy shooting Fuji or m43 in mirrorless or any of the decent DSLR options in APS-C.

The only real use case for me in FF is as a digital option to carry alongside a film kit, taking advantage of the common frame size to minimize the lenses I need to carry. I really have 3 options along these lines.

1. Carry a NEX/A6x00 body + native wide + adapters
2. Carry a A7 body + adapters
3. Carry a Fuji X-E2/X-T10 + native wide + adapters

Unfortunately the crop factor in m43 makes a similar kit impractical, I'd need at least two native lenses for that kit to work (wide + normal).

The A7 body is obviously the simplest choice. It'll use exactly the same lenses I use on the film body and will minimize the overall carried kit.

The E mount (NEX/A6x00) kit is the cheapest option, since the bodies are reasonably inexpensive used and I'd simply use a Sigma 19/2.8 as the wide. It also uses the same set of adapters as the A7 and provides a ready path to upgrade.

The Fuji path is interesting because I love the glass, especially the 18/2 which would be the likely wide choice, but would end up nearly as costly as the A7 in the end and would have me fighting X-Trans conversions again.

What will I do? No clue. A lot depends on where my film shooting goes as until I know that, I don't know what I should be optimizing my kit for.

Wednesday 13 July 2016

A Look Back

Mamiya 645 Super, Sekor 80/2.8 C, Kodak Porta 160VC

Of all my work shot in the last 12 years since I started shooting seriously, my favourite as a body of work is my Medium format work, especially the work I shot on my Mamiya 645 Super.

I shot the Mamiya 645 system for 5 years, totaling 174 rolls of film, of which 146 of that was with the Super. I normally worked with a 3 lens system, originally the 45/2.8 C, 80/2.8 C and 150/3.5 C, later changed to the 55/2.8 N, 80/1.9 C and 150/3.5 C. And I've produced more work with that single camera than most systems I've shot in smaller formats.

There's an aspect of the film look that's unique to the larger formats that I just love. The DoF falloff and fine tonality produced by bigger negs really works for me.

Frankly, I think I may need to consider medium format as a long-term option. I've not shot any since 2012 and I think it's high time that I remedy that. Luckily I still have my Super Ricohflex TLR and Sekonic meter, so I should be able to shoot a little on the side.

Tuesday 12 July 2016

But what About Digital?

Panasonic G3, Sigma 60mm f2.8 DN Art

Shooting more film brings up the question of how to handle my Digital kit. I greatly prefer to have a single, flexible kit so I can use the same set of lenses across all my bodies in regular use. If I'm going to be shooting alot of film again, this means acquiring a Sony A7 or A7II to use with the same set of manual focus lenses as I use on my film bodies (Minolta MC/MD on the X-700 for now).

If I was still shooting almost entirely digital, this wouldn't be an issue. My Micro 4/3rds gear is working very well for me and in particular I really get along with the GX7. I've got a nice little lens setup that covers most of my needs and plans to cover the rest. I like the output, like the handling and my only complaint is that my backup body (Panasonic G3) doesn't deliver IQ that's quite up to my standards, and that's readily solvable by replacing it with a newer 16MP body (like the G5, G6 or E-M10).

Frankly, in the short term I'm simply going to keep shooting with what I've got. It's working well for me and I'm enjoying it. I'll simply deal with the need to carry a little more in the way of lenses if I want to shoot both digital and film on a single outing. I'll start considering film+digital options when I hit 50% of my film shooting goal for the year (26 rolls), and probably not buy anything until the goal is met (52 rolls). Until that point, the m43 stuff will continue to be my digital kit and I will be adding a few items to the kit (14/15mm prime, telezoom, some UWA option)

Monday 11 July 2016

Just a Walk

Wide Open 
Nikon F3HP, Fujifilm Neopan 100SS

I've been pushing myself to take a solid walk after work at least 2-3 times a week. This has been a major contributor to my renewed shooting. If I'm out and I have a camera, I will shoot. A lot of my mojo loss was a simple lack of interest in getting out the door with a camera. Today was a solid example, I did a 1h45m walk south and west of my work, pretty much going out and back along an oval-ish route. I shot a roll & a half while doing so, bringing me to 11 rolls for the year and I've now exceeded both my 2015 and 2013 rollcounts, and polished off my stock of C-41 film (I still have one roll of Velvia floating around and then I'm completely out of colour film)

I've mostly been shooting cityscape while doing these walks. It takes a fair bit of time before I really get comfortable shooting street in an area and where I'm shooting is a pretty new neighbourhood for me outside of one corner of the area. As I get more comfortable, I'll switch slowly to more street and less cityscape in the area. I've mapped out several routes that I can rotate between to keep the area fresh, unlike my old work neighbourhood, the current one doesn't lend itself to continuously shooting in a small area.

In a related note, I need to decide on what film I'm going to keep around. For fast B&W it's HP5+ for the time being and likely a return to Tri-X once I'm done the HP5+ (I still have 1.5 100' rolls of HP5+). I think I'm going to look around for some ISO 50-100 options, PanF+ and Acros are rather pricey these days so some smaller maker's alternatives will get looked at. On the colour side, it's easy. I need to buy a brick of Ektar 100. Love the stuff and can't wait to shoot some more of it.

Suggestions on slow B&W emulsions at good prices are most welcome.

Sunday 10 July 2016

A Few More Thoughts On Film

Group and Solo 
Nikon F3HP, Fujifilm Neopan 100SS

I've now managed to nail down an acceptable set of scanner settings for producing web output from 35mm scans and my flatbed. The trick was reducing the resolution, I'm scanning at 2400dpi (instead of the 4800dpi setting I use for 120/220) and getting decent results. Combined with an import preset which gives a better starting point for editing, I've now got something which allows for a low-stress workflow from film to Flickr.

That said, I've still got a few things to sort out on the film side. Consumables are an issue, while I have a solid source on most of them, Blazinal/Rodinal is something I don't trust my local supplier to keep in stock (it's the only item I buy from a source other than my usual store, as they don't carry it and the major chain that does is not really interested in supporting film shooters). Also I'm approaching the need to replace some of my reels and reloadable canisters. Not to terribly expensive, just wear items. I also need a solid process thermometer and some deep-dish trays for doing water baths. once I have those I am going to look at doing E-6 in the home (for about $5/roll vs $15)

All said, as long as I'm willing to deal with the workflow after developing, film could have a long future in my bag. I'm up to 9 rolls in the last couple weeks, compared to 8 rolls in 2015, 16 rolls in 2014 and 10 rolls in 2013. If I keep shooting at a decent rate I'll certainly hit my 52 roll target for making serious investments in film kit.

Saturday 9 July 2016

First Pass on the X-700

New Look Parking 
Minolta X-700, MD 45/2, HP5+

I've now got 5 rolls through the X-700 (out of 9 rolls of film shot so far this year) and have enough time on it to have a decent first impression.

Overall, that impression is very good. I thoroughly understand why the X-700 is beloved by so many Minolta shooters. Simply put, it's the best mid-range consumer manual focus SLR I've shot. It's not perfect, but for an AE manual focus 35mm SLR it's a very good experience.

For starters the handling is excellent. Good finder, good metering readout in P & A modes (it needs selected shutter speed indication in M mode to be ideal there, but if you need that the X-500/X-570 has it). Solid tattletales for Exposure Comp & Manual modes and it's match-LED metering which I greatly prefer to the more common match-needle. The AE-Lock is very well located, falls right under the forefinger on a control shared with the self-timer (pull up for self-timer, press down for AE Lock). Shutter dial locks for P & A modes, and has the on/off switch under it. Exposure compensation is the usual dial under the rewind knob, but one of the better implementations (press button & turn). The finder is bright and easy to focus. Not the largest, but more than acceptable size. Build quality is rather good for a plastic-shell camera. Feels very solid aside from a flexible back (pretty common issue with any plastic-shell camera I've owned)

The downsides come down to the shutter, it's 1/1000 max and 1/60 sync were on the low side even when the X-700 came out, the lack of selected shutter speed readout in the viewfinder and the slightly wonky on/off selection (centre is off, one way is on, the other on with warning beeps. Makes turning the camera on easy, but off fiddly).

Overall I'm very much enjoying the X-700 and it's slipped into the primary film body role for now.

Wednesday 6 July 2016

A Break and a Return

New Reeds
Mamiya 645 Super, 150/3.5 C, Portra 160VC,

That's the second last colour image in my 645 processing queue (not counting unprocessed E-6 that I still need to find a processor for). Yes, over 3 years after selling my 645 Super, I still have some new work from it to post. Really need to sort that out. I will say that selling my 645 Super kit was one of the most foolish decisions I ever made. I ended up with a Nikon setup that I disliked and quickly dumped (the D600 debacle) at the cost of two of my favourite film setups (the 645 Super and my Minolta Maxxum 7's) It made sense at the time, but in hindsight selling both kits was a terrible idea. I hadn't shot much with either kit in a while, but that was more an issue with my ongoing motivation struggles than the kit itself. I shot more with the 645 Super than anything else I've ever owned (and the Maxxum 7's were #2 for 35mm kit for me) and quite frankly my best work was produced with the 645 Super.

As to actually shooting, the challenges did not work out so far. I just barely made the March Challenge, but then didn't touch a camera until late June. I've been shooting a bit lately, mostly film though (I've shot 4 rolls in the last week and a half) after spending a rather small sum on a couple film bodies (Minolta X-700, Nikon N6000) and a couple lenses (Minolta 28/2.8, 45/2, Nikon 50/1.8 E). I'm enjoying film again, although I still haven't sorted the whole scanning issue.

On the gear side, aside from the film kit I dumped my E-M1 and the 17/1.8 for a GX7 and the Oly 25/1.8. The E-M1 remains a great camera, but it really was a little too much for my actual needs right now and it kept getting in my way (too many buttons), the GX7 has all the features I actually used on the E-M1 and all I give up is the viewfinder (and the GX7's finder is entirely acceptable). The 17 never quite impressed, while the 25 certainly does impress. I like it rather a lot. Still could see dumping the high-end body and just keeping the G3 though, but I'd keep the lenses. I'm thinking for medium term I'll just find a 14/2.5 and shoot with the resulting 3-lens kit (14, 25, 60). I don't really need anything more, although an ultra-wide would be nice. Plan is for a similar kit in film, I'm on the lookout for a Minolta 105 or 135 for the X-700, and will be rebuilding my old Nikkor kit (much slower since it will require actual investment). The X-700 will be my beater camera for now, while the Nikon kit is tentatively my long-term standard. I like the X-700, but am unsure about it as a long-term system while the Nikon stuff always satisfies.

In the meantime, the real challenge is to get out and shoot. Gear is nice, but the image is what photography is about.

Oh, and I'm seriously thinking about dabbling in wet printing again. May take a course on it.

Thursday 10 March 2016

Challenges - update

E-M1, Sigma DN 60mm f2.8

So my February challenge, which was to get comfortable enough with CaptureOne to use it as my primary image-processing application, was successful. I've been processing all my recent work in C1 (including the above image) and am at the point now where I'm comfortable enough to skip Lightroom for the forseeable future.

For March, I decided to go easy on myself again. The March challenge is to do one photowalk a week minimum, taking at least 75 images over at least 2 hours. It's been successful so far, but I've got 3 walks to go.

One thing that continues to be a challenge is the fact I still really do want to shoot film. There's a draw to manual, mechanical cameras I just can't get rid of. I just like shooting them. I don't have much interest in AF stuff though.

Frankly I'm sometimes really tempted to sell off my higher-end m43 kit and just go back to basics. I could put together a fairly nice setup for what I've got in my E-M1, 17 and 60. Keep the G3 for futzing about (or just use the fairly nice camera in my Lumia 830, yes, horror of horrors, I actually started using my phone camera a fair bit, it's convenient and surprisingly non-horrible). The flip side is I still don't have a good solution to the scanner question. Without that solved, film is just off the table for now.

Do I enjoy my current digital kit? Sure. In fact it does handle all my actual needs and aside from the usual 'I really dig Fuji lenses' temptation from the Fuji side (a switch I know would result in an 'I really dig m43 kit' temptation). The reality is I still prefer film for B&W, and could live with shooting Ektar for my colour work. And I could put together a really nice setup for not all that much money in a couple of different mounts. Gah, I wanted to stick with a system for a while. I know that the moment I switch back to film, I'll start jonesing for a FF solution to match the film kit.

Wednesday 17 February 2016

A Challenge, or More

Golden Fog Olympus E-M1, Sigma DN 60mm f2.8

Having pondered things a bit more, what I need more than anything else is a challenge. Or more than one.

So I'm going to challenge myself. Monthly I think, a challenge every month for the month, with the best of the month posted at the end. Some sort of theme or restriction (one lens, one aperture, one genre, manual focus only, zone focus only, no metering, etc)

For the rest of February, the challenge will be getting to know CaptureOne Pro. I've long preferred the output of CaptureOne to Lightroom, my long-time choice for processing. But I've never been comfortable with the interface, especially the organizational tools. Now that CaptureOne has solved my biggest issue with the sorting tools (the brain-dead filtering in earlier versions) I think I can move over to it full-time. I just need to dive in and figure it out.

I'll start a new challenge on March 1st, I'm thinking a 1-lens challenge, probably the Oly 17/1.8.

Sunday 14 February 2016

I've Lost My Mojo

Sunderland Synangogue
 Olympus E-M1, m.Zuiko 17/1.8

As the anyone who has been reading is aware, I've been fighting a reduction in my will to get out and shoot for a few years. What was once a near-daily activity now sees entire months where I don't pick up a camera. The last few months in particular have been terrible, I don't think I took a single shot in January, and November was in the single-digits. The terrible winter (no snow, grey and mucky) has definitely been a contributing factor.

I'm not going to quit shooting, although I have been tempted. I've managed to pair down my kit to just the E-M1, G3 and 3 lenses (14-42, 17, 60) with a 40-150 on loan. I'm simply going to keep the kit as it is for now and see if my shooting mojo improves in the coming year.