Using the Mamiya NI701Shift Tilt Adapter

For the last few years I’ve gone through phases of looking at large-format cameras on the web; the attractions being the larger negative and, more importantly, movements. I’ve admired the images of top photographers such as Joe Cornish and David Ward, with their front-to-back sharpness, and wanted to achieve the same effects.

However I’ve held back from large format because of the amount of extra equipment I’d need:

  • the camera
  • at least two lenses, one “standard” and one wide angle
  • dark slides
  • a loupe
  • a dark cloth
  • a different developing tank and spirals
  • for darkroom prints, a new enlarger, which might not even fit into the space available

The next step in my thinking was that perhaps I could achieve what I wanted by using a roll-film back on a view camera. I reasoned that the bigger negative wasn’t really essential. I get enough quality for my purposes from the 6*7 negatives in my Mamiya RZ67 (actually they are more like 56mm * 69mm). I’ve never looked at one of those images and thought “I really need more resolution”.

Using a roll film back on a view camera would obviate the need for new spirals and a new enlarger; the film would be cheaper too. There is even an adapter that would allow me to use my existing RZ67 backs on a large format camera. But the stumbling block, apart from other demands on time and money, was that to get a wide-angle view would require buying a new lens such as a 47mm or 65mm. Whilst large format 90mm lens can be picked up at reasonable prices, the wider lenses – which would be a super wide on 4*5 but just  fairly wide on 6*7 – tend to be a lot more expensive.

So, after much thought, I ended up buying the “NI701 Shift Tilt Adaptor” for the Mamiya RZ67, together with the Mamiya 75mm f4.5 SB lens. The “SB” stands for “Short Barrel”; the shorter length of the lens makes up for the extra extension provided in the barrel of the adaptor, so that the lens can be focussed to infinity.

The adapter and 75mm lens mounted on my Mamiya RZ67

The adapter and 75mm lens mounted on my Mamiya RZ67

The adaptor provides 12mm upward shift, 12mm downward shift, 12mm forward tilt, and 12mm downward shift. There is no “swing” facility, but if your tripod is strong enough, you can turn the camera on its’ side to achieve a swing movement. In the same manner, you could achieve a horizontal shift movement.

Now large format enthusiasts will point out that 12mm of movements is tiny compared to what a typical view camera can achieve. This is undoubtedly true and I haven’t yet got enough experience to determine how much of a limitation this is for my style of photography. I was concerned about this point until I found out that the modern T/S lenses for Canon and Nikon full-frame DSLRs have about the same amount of movements (for about three times the cost).

So, now to see how it worked out in practice. After a bit of playing around without any film to see how the movements worked, and then a first film shooting some flowers at home, I got round to some real world tests.

The first group were shot with the Mamiya 110mm f2.8 lens as the 75mm lens hadn’t been delivered yet. These were all taken at home with Ilford FP4+ developed in the Firstcall B&W film developer.

2016-4,TS, RZ67,  FP4+, Firstcall dev 18c 5m 11s Jobo, 008

The front of this shell was very close to the lens, so depth of field without tilt would be very limited. With tilt, I got most of it in focus, but probably should have used the full 12 degrees of tilt.

2016-4,TS, RZ67,  FP4+, Firstcall dev 18c 5m 11s Jobo, 004

Forward tilt again

2016-4,TS, RZ67,  FP4+, Firstcall dev 18c 5m 11s Jobo, 003

In this example, the camera was mounted above the subject, but it wasn’t practical to make the film plane parallel to the subject, so a small amount of forward tilt was used to get the whole subject in focus.

Next up was a trip to Lanercost Priory, which I envisaged would give an opportunity to try out some shift movements to straighten the verticals in the building. The first two shots were in Ilford XP2 film, developed in the Fuji Hunt C41 chemicals.

2016-4-16, Bowes Railway, RZ67, XP2, 75mm, Fuji Chems,  006

Some upward shift was applied here, and I think some backward tilt, although it looks like I could have increased the back tilt to get the stone at the top of the image a bit sharper

Backward tilt and upward shit were adopted here and I was pleased to be able get everything acceptably in focus

Backward tilt and upward shift were adopted here and I was pleased to be able get everything acceptably in focus

The remaining shots were taken on Fuji Acros, again developed in the Firstcall B&W developer. The toning was applied in Lightroom.

Back tilt and shift up.

Back tilt and shift up.

Back tilt

Back tilt

With upward shift, shot with the camera close to the ground so that the roof features were visible/

With upward shift, shot with the camera close to the ground so that the roof features were visible

Not a very exciting result but I did this to test the ability to get everything from the front lettering to the window in focus.

Not a very exciting result but I did this to test the ability to get everything from the front lettering to the window in focus.

On the way home I still had three shots left on the roll of Acros so I stopped off at Hexham Abbey for some more architectural shots. I knew that this subject would challenge the shift capability to the limit.

2016-4-22, Hexham Abbey, Acros, Firstcall Dev 21C 5m Jobo 006

In the event, the result you see above did have a small amount of additional perspective correction carried out in Lightroom; after applying the full 12 degrees of upward shift on the adapter;but I got much closer to the result I wanted than I would have without the adapter, and I could probably achieve the final correction in the darkroom by tilting the easel. Mamiya also have a Shift 75mm lens which has 20mm of up or down shift, but no tilt capability, but this would not be as versatile for general use as the 75mm SB lens in conjunction with the tilt and shift capability of the adapter.

At this point I should talk about what lenses can be used with the adapter. The 75mm SB lens focusses to infinity and I’ve found the focal length to be fairly useful for architecture and landscapes, although a wider lens would be handy. The 35mm-equivalent focal length is 36mm.

There is also a 180mm SB lens (90mm equivalent in 35mm terms) which can focus to infinity with the adaptor. I don’t have this lens and don’t think I’m likely to need it for the images I take.

The other lenses which are recommended for use with the adapter, but which can’t be focussed to infinity, are:

  • 140mm macro
  • 150mm f3.5
  • 180mm f4.5 (I have this lens but haven’t tried it yet with the adapter)
  • 210mm f4.5 APO

The ever-useful Mike Butkus has the manual for the adapter here;you might want to send him a donation to say thanks.

The manual warns that vignetting may occur in some situations; I have observed this through the finder with the DoF preview in use, but I’ve not actually noticed it in any of the images I’ve taken.

RZ67, 2016-5, Ektar, 75mm TS, Fuji chems010

About 3 degrees of forward tilt – Kodak Ektar taken at Seaton Sluice

 

 

RZ67, 2016-5, Ektar, 75mm TS, Fuji chems005

With maximum forward tilt- Kodak Ektar taken at Seaton Sluice

The 75mm lens is significantly heavier,at 1295g, than any other Mamiya lens I have, and has an enormous 105mm filter thread. The adapter is not heavy but it is an awkward shape to pack in my bag. As a result, it’s likely that when I want to take the 75mm lens out, it may be the only lens I pack.

Finally, here’s an image where I got the movements completely wrong.

RZ67, 2016-5, Ektar, 75mm TS, Fuji chems006

I was concentrating on getting the bluebells in focus and failed to notice that the tree trunk is completely out of focus; forgetting that tilt may be useful for gently sloping subjects but can’t cope with a vertical object in the middle of the frame !

In summary, I have found that the 75mm SB lens, combined with the adapter, is pretty useful for many landscapes and moderately-challenging architectural features, as well as for close-ups. The adapter also works well with the 110mm lens for close-up work.  But the limited lens choice with the adapter, and the relatively limited amount of movement, means that this setup will not suit everyone as an alternative to a full view-camera kit. If you’re already an owner of an RZ67, it may attract you, but if you’re not already an RZ owner I doubt that you would choose this route as a way of getting into camera movements.

 

 

On re-fixing a mess

When it comes to developing film, I’ve made every mistake possible: dev time too short, dev time too long, too little developer, top of the tank popping off, putting the fixer in before the developer, throwing re-useable developer away after one shot, and so on.

Fortunately the frequency of such mistakes has reduced over time (I hope that statement is not tempting fate) so now I’m getting round to solving the problem of half-a-dozen films which were not fixed properly because the fixer had been re-used to many times.

The images below are from a roll of Tri-X I put through a Yashicamat 124G in 2012, on holiday in Wales. The first mistake was that I thought I had put T-Max 100 in the camera, so the shots metered at ISO 400 were two shots overexposed. The second mistake was when I realised the first mistake, and I reset the meter to 400; it would have been better to shoot the whole roll at 100 and adjust the development time.

So to overcome the exposure problem I decided to stand-develop with Rodinal, diluted 1:100, for one hour, which is a good stand-by method if the exposures have been doubtful. Now Tri-X in Rodinal can give enormous grain in 35mm but in this case, with medium format, the grain isn’t obtrusive – perhaps helped by the absence of sky which is where the grain shows up most.

The problem with the exhausted fixer was not apparent until I’d cut the film up for scanning, and the results weren’t suitable for on-line sharing until I finally got round to re-fixing the film, nearly 4 years later.

The process of refixing is simple enough – just the fixing and washing stages are required – but it is fiddly when the film has already been cut up. It’s a faff to put four or more short strips onto a reel, although at least you don’t have to do it in the dark. The biggest problem is drying the film, because (a) you need more clips than you might have, and (b) there is less spare film at each end for attaching the clips.

Refix 2012-8, Wales, 124G, Tri-x, Rodinal, 004 Refix 2012-8, Wales, 124G, Tri-x, Rodinal, 005 Refix 2012-8, Wales, 124G, Tri-x, Rodinal, 006

So the lessons I take away are:

  • try to change the fixer before it’s exhausted
  • if the problem is apparent immediately, mix some fresh fixer and refix the film BEFORE cutting it up.

One film down, five or so to go.

Waiting for Portra and learning to love Ektar

Like a lot of film photographers I’m waiting for a delivery of Kodak Portra, specifically medium format Portra 400. It’s been very difficult to get hold of, at least in Europe, for about two months now, but seems to be coming back in stock. I’ve ordered 10 rolls from 7dayshop – unlike some other suppliers they haven’t put up their prices to take advantage of the situation. I’m told it’s been dispatched and I’m hopeful it will arrive tomorrow.

Whilst waiting for Portra 400, I’ve been using Kodak Ektar more than I usually do, and have been warming to it. Occasionally in the past my Ektar shots have had some weird colours but that might have just been the vagaries of my home processing.

Here’s a few Ektar shots taken on the Mamiya RZ67 at Fountains Abbey & Studley Royal, a World Heritage Site in North Yorkshire.

 

2016-3-11, Fountains Abbey, RZ67, Ektar, Fuji chems, 007-Edit

 

 

2016-3-11, Fountains Abbey, RZ67, Ektar, Fuji chems, 001

Fo 2016-3-11, Fountains Abbey, RZ67, Ektar, Fuji chems, 005

 

2016-3-11, Fountains Abbey, RZ67, Ektar, Fuji chems, 015

 

2016-3-11, Fountains Abbey, RZ67, Ektar, Fuji chems, 016

2016-3-11, Fountains Abbey, RZ67, Ektar, Fuji chems, 017

 

The shots above were all home developed in the Fuji Hunt C41 kit.

I’ve now almost standardised my colour film choice on Ektar (which has a box speed of ISO100) and the ISO 400 version of Kodak Portra.

Portra 160 is also a perfectly fine film, but I just don’t feel a need for that intermediate speed of 160. If the light is good enough for ISO100, or the subject is stationary,  I’ll use Ektar. If I’m trying to freeze flowers which are being blown about in the wind, or I can’t use a tripod, then Portra 400 fits the bill. It is pretty fine-grained for an ISO400 film so I don’t need to agonise over the slight difference in grain compared to Portra 160.

 

 

Single image: Blyth Pier

An old image of Blyth Pier in Northumberland, taken  in 2009 on 35mm Velvia, and newly converted to mono.

2009 May 22nd, EOS300, Velvia, Blyth, 1-Edit

I did the conversion using Silver Efex Pro 2, part of the Google Nik collection. The software is now available for free download here. I must admit, however, that I didn’t see anything in the Nik Collection that I couldn’t already do in Lightroom, apart from some really cheesy things that I wouldn’t want to do anyway.

 

Single image: Water shapes

I sometimes try to think of my images as arrangements of shapes rather than of subject matter, and the approach seemed to work with this image.

Taken at Guyzance Weir on the River Coquet in Northumberland, on a Mamiya RZ67 with Kodak T-Max 100 film, and developed in Firstcall B&W film developer.

 

2016-1, Guyzance, RZ67, TMax 100, Firstcall 5m 40s 22c Jobo, 006-Edit

 

 

Equipment: Olympus 35RC

I’ve owned a few cameras in the category of small 35mm fixed-lens rangefinders or scale focus, such as the Olympus XA and XA2, Olympus 35ECR, Olympus Trip, and Konica C35, but I think I’ve now found my favourite camera of this type in the form of the Olympus 35RC.

Canon FTb tests, 35mm f8 1-125s Frame 009

I now have two of these camera; I purchased the first from eBay for £25 and the owner wasn’t sure of how well it worked. In the event it worked pretty good except for the rangefinder being out of alignment. More technically-minded photographers than me would turn to the technical notes and diagrams provided by Rick Oleson to make the necessary adjustment, but I have got by using scale focus instead. That model also had a little sticker over a missing self-timer lever – I didn’t even realise there should be a self-timer until I bought the second model. That’s the self-timer lever above the word “Olympus” in the images above and below.

I only use self-timers on cameras that don’t have a threaded cable release, but the 35RC has one of those.

Canon FTb tests, 70mm f5-6 1-125s Frame 012

35RC no 2 was purchased for £55 but came with a metal lens hood, with a cut off to reduce the degree to which the image through the viewfinder is masked by the lens hood, a matching Olympus PS200 flash, and an orange filter – and an accurate rangefinder. The lens hood itself can cost up to £30 if purchased separately.

Exposure control is either shutter-priority automatic or manual, and both the shutter speed and aperture set are visible in the viewfinder.

The camera uses the Olympus “flashmatic” system which will set the correct aperture, and as the camera has a leaf shutter, any shutter speed can be used for flash.

Canon FTb tests, 70mm f8 1-125s Frame 011

As you can see above the controls are laid out in an obvious way and are limited to what you need – shutter speed, aperture, and focus. The slowest shutter speed is 1/15s which is a bit limiting if you want to shoot landscapes in dark woods, or use 1/8s or 1/4s for just a little motion blur on running water.

The focal length is 42mm and I’ve found this to be a useful choice.  A wider lens might be useful to me sometimes, but an interchangeable lens camera would be much larger, and I now mainly use 35mm cameras as backups to a medium format system, so it’s not really worth making the 35mm system too bulky or heavy.

The 35RC sits inside a small shoulder camera bag next to my Fujifilm GA645Zi, which is battery-dependent. The 35RC can be used without a battery, losing only the metering function, so it makes a good totally-manual backup. The battery is PX625, which means you may have to fiddle about with the ISO setting if you use a modern alternative to compensate for the different voltage.

Canon FTb tests, 70mm f11 1-30s Frame 013

The film loads to the right, the opposite to most cameras, and the short distance across the film gate means you may well get one or two extra shots out of a roll of film.

So here’s the summary:

Strengths:

  • Small
  • Sharp lens
  • Manual and automatic exposure
  • Can be used without a battery, if you can do without metering

Weaknesses:

  • Some slower shutter speeds would be nice.

And now for some images taken with my two 35RC’s ….

With Agfa Vista 200 film (Camera 1):

 

With Fuji Pro 800Z film (Camera 1):

With Fomapan 100 film (Camera 1):

With Kodak T-Max 100 (Camera 2):

 

Foma Retropan 320 – not for me thanks

I’m not normally one for trying out every available film – I generally prefer to stick with a smaller range from the major suppliers, i.e. Kodak, Ilford, and Fuji.

So for black and white film in the slow-medium ISO range I’m happy with any of Kodak TMax 100, Ilford FP4+, or Fuji Acros.

I’ve not yet settled on a preferred list of faster films, i.e. ISO 400 and above; probably because I’m not personally a fan of grain. For the landscape and still life images that form 90% of my photography, I’m looking for fine details where possible.

In medium format I’m fairly happy with Kodak Tri-X, which can reasonably be pushed to ISO800 or 1600, but I’ve found it too grainy in 35mm for my liking. Yes, I know that Don McCullin took bucketloads of great images on 35mm Tri-X, but the visual requirements for conflict photography are not the same as for landscapes.

So it was, that when I had to buy some fixer in an emergency by mail order, I decided I should add a roll of Fomapan Retro 320 to my basket, in order to get more value out of the minimum shipping charge.

Since the film is available in 35mm and large format, but not 120, and I don’t have a large format camera, I loaded the resulting 35mm roll into my Canon FTb, newly equipped with a new-to-me Tamron Adaptall 28-70mm zoom lens which I had bought for just £19.99  including postage. Of course, trying out a new film type at the same time as a new lens really is not a good idea, since any defects could be due to the lens and/or the film.

The first four images are from Guyzance, a hamlet on the River Coquet in Northumberland.

2016-1-23, Canon FTb, Shibdon Pond, Retropan 320, Rodinal 1+50 13m 20c, 031

This weir was the site of an accident in 1945 when ten young soldiers died on a training exercise, and there have been other more recent tragedies.

2016-1-17, Canon FTb, Guyzance, Retropan 320, Rodinal 1+50 13m 20c, 022

The only developer I had in stock, for which developing times are listed on the Massive Development Chart, was Rodinal, so I dug out the Rodinal and was surprised to find the bottle half full even though it had only been used once; I think the cap doesn’t fit well and some of the liquid had evaporated.

So Rodinal at 1:50 it was. I have to say that the results were the most grainy I have ever experienced from any film, except for the much faster Ilford Delta 3200. Of course, many photographers will say that I used the wrong developer, as Rodinal is not known for fine grain. Foma recommends “Foma Retro Special Developer” for this film, but I don’t find it practical to keep a different developer in stock for a single film type.

2016-1-17, Canon FTb, Guyzance, Retropan 320, Rodinal 1+50 13m 20c, 024

A mill building. To be fair to Retropan, this image does show some promise in the ability to show details across a wide tonal range. Not only does the rear wall hold a lot of detail, but so does the small hole in the rear wall.

2016-1-17, Canon FTb, Guyzance, Retropan 320, Rodinal 1+50 13m 20c, 023

Next two are from Shibdon Pond near Blaydon, in dull weather.

2016-1-23, Canon FTb, Shibdon Pond, Retropan 320, Rodinal 1+50 13m 20c, 040

2016-1-23, Canon FTb, Shibdon Pond, Retropan 320, Rodinal 1+50 13m 20c, 033

If Retropan 320 was available in 120 roll format, I might be willing to try it for longer, and with a more suitable developer – but I shoot so little 35mm these days that it’s not worth the effort. The obvious way to get better quality from 35mm is to switch to a bigger format.

So for the time being my ISO400-ish needs will continue to be met by Kodak Tri-X in medium format. For 35mm, Ilford XP2 Super comes the closest to my needs, but I may just avoid ISO400 in 35mm. For the last few months, I have been shooting Kodak T-Max 100 at ISO 200; this can be developed in TMax Developer for the same time as ISO100 and the results have been good from my Fujifilm GA645Zi. In the next few days I will be developing a roll of 35mm T-Max at 200 so it will be interesting to see how that turns out. The difference between ISO200 and ISO320 is only two-thirds of a stop, after all.

 

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