Category Archives: equipment

Equipment: Lomo Fisheye 2

My latest camera purchase was the Lomo Fisheye 2 which I bought used from eBay for £16. I’m not usually one for the “Lo-Fi” approach but I didn’t fancy paying £450 for a fisheye lens for my Mamiya RZ67, or even £120 for Zenitar 16mm fisheye for 35mm cameras, bearing in mind that I’m only likely to make occasional use of a fisheye.DSC_0017

The field of view of the lens is 170 degrees, which seems to equate to just about everything I can see, including my feet or fingers if I’m not careful. Unlike my pinhole camera, which don’t have a viewfinder and require a lot of guesswork to determine what will be, the Lomo Fisheye has a handy viewfinder which fits into the hotshoe.

The viewfinder doesn’t give any information about shutter speed, aperture, or focussing; but then there isn’t any information to give. There is only one shutter speed of 1/50s, one aperture of f8, and fixed focus.

The Angel of the North

Given the fixed aperture and shutter speed, the user is dependent upon the light being within a certain range, and the relatively high tolerance of negative film. The manual recommends ISO400 film but I chose to load “Poundland special” Agfa Vista 200 film, because it’s cheap and I had a few rolls. That seemed to work OK.

Newcastle Civic Centre

Newcastle Civic Centre

I had expected the images to be almost circular, and indeed they are; you see the full radius of a circle on the long side of the film, but not on the short side of the film. What i hadn’t expected, is that you can see what appears to be the inside of the lens assembly in the area outside of the image circle. I find it a bit distracting, but you could add a vignette in post processing to darken it down.

Memorial to the Boer War, Newcastle Haymarket

Newcastle Civic Centre

 

Vintage fire engine at the North East Land, Sea, and Air Museum. It was pretty dark inside this shed so I was surprised at how the image worked out.

 

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Bloodhound missile and Avro Vulcan bomber

 

A Dutch tram awaiting restoration at the North East Land, Sea, and Air Museum.

So far I’ve taken two rolls, in Newcastle and Gateshead, and at the North East Land, Sea, and Air Museum.

I don’t think the Lomo Fisheye 2 is going to become my main camera any time soon; I don’t even think I would pay the £60 some eBay sellers of new cameras have priced  them at. But for £16, it’s been an interesting change.

Ships and boats on Agfa Precisa slide film

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I blogged recently about my first experience with Agfa Precisa CT100 slide film. It wasn’t a totally succesful experience because my task was to photograph waterfalls and the dynamic range of the locations were a bit too much for the range of slide film.

However my second roll produced a much better match of film to subject. I took a short journey to Blyth, a harbour town in Northumberland, previously home to mining and shipbuilding.

I took my new Mamiya ZM 35mm SLR together with a Mamiya 50mm f2 standard lens, and Tamron Adaptall 28mm and 135mm lenses. I took my Sekonic Digital Master L-758 spot meter to help ensure accurate metering and that worked well. I squeezed 38 shots out the roll and only two of them were out exposure-wise.

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I don’t usually use lenses longer than 50mm very much, and I’ve been through a few telephoto lenses in the past and sold them on without making many images with them. On this occasion however the the 135mm lenses was used for over half of the images and proved ideal for searching out small details in the ships and boats to be found in the harbour.

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It was a bright sunny day which gave typical exposures of 1/125s at f11. The winter sun was at a low angle which gave vibrant colours, well matched to the Agfa Precisa film (rebadged Fuji Provia).

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Some of the jetties are locked near the ends but there is still room to get a substantial number of images. The get the image above. I poked the lens though the gate shown below.

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I always get a surprise when I see a ship at the bottom of a street:

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This lighthouse used to be on the shore, but the harbour extended outwards so it is now land-locked, and built onto the end of a house:

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Nearby is the remains of a “rocket station” where rockets were used to send ropes over to boats which were wrecked near the shoreline. This is the door of the rocket station:

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The support ship “Grand Canyon” was moored at what used to be a dedicated quay serving Bates Pit,. a coal mine:

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The local fishing boats were dwarfed by the 125 metre long Grand Canyon:

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Bates Pit, which once employed 1800 men, closed in 1986. It stood behind the sign below and the state of the sign sums up the desolation left by pit closures. The National Coal Board, in closing the pit, ignored the advice of an independent tribunal, and the Government Minister in charge didn’t even turn up to debate the issue in Parliament.

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On a brighter note, a family of swans enjoyed the sunshine and basked in the reflections of a shop on the opposite bank of the river:

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I hope you enjoyed these images, which I hope give a good impression of the capabilities of Agfa CT Precisa film.

 

 

The new family member: Mamiya ZM

I mentioned in my last post that I was using a new camera which I got for Christmas so I’m giving it a bit of an introduction here. The camera is a Mamiya ZM 35mm SLR which was released in 1982.

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The family

The third image above might give a clue why, out of all the cameras listed on all the auction sites in the world, I chose the Mamiya ZM … it was for purely sentimental reasons, to fit with my small family of Mamiya cameras. I have enough parts to make up two Mamiya RZ67’s;  you can see above one on the left with a 50mm wide angle lens and waist level finder, and on the right an RZ67 with a shift-tilt adapter, 75mm short barrel lens, and a prism finder.

Needless to say, the ZM 35mm, at 480 grams, is a lot lighter to carry around than an RZ67.

It works well, although I did experience two difficulties on the first serious outing with the camera. First, I dropped the camera body on to some rock, whilst changing lenses. The immediate effect was that the meter readings, which had seemed pretty accurate in my tests, were now way off. The camera was giving readings which indicated that it thought the aperture was always open at f2.

Fortunately I had my Sekonic Twinmate meter with me for backup so I used that for the rest of the day. I usually do carry an exposure meter with me, because most of my cameras don’t have inbuilt metering, so the lack of metering is an inconvenience rather than a disaster.

The second problem came to light a little later when the shutter would refuse to fire. It was rather intermittent and sometimes a little fiddling with the wind on lever would sort things out. When it finally died, I came to the conclusion that the batteries may be low. The seller had said it had fresh batteries, but my testing, combined with forgetting to switch the camera off, could have reduced the battery strength. Furthermore I had been puzzled by why the camera beeped every time I took a meter reading …. not realising this was actually the low battery warning.

So when I got home I put some new batteries in (unfortunately this is one of those cameras which needs batteries to function at all, not just for metering). That made no difference to the metering, so there’s probably been some damage to the pins that read the aperture. With regard to the shutter winding, I discovered that if I wound on twice, the shutter woild fire OK. The second wind-on would move film transport by just another millimetre, but was somehow enough to tell the camera it was ready for another shot.

The wind-on lever does have a rather unusual design, which means that only half of the lever actually moves when you wind on. Whether this has anything to do with the problem, I don’t know.

The most important lesson is, don’t drop your camera, especially without a lens or body cap fitted! But I am quite accident-prone, and lost a lens cap later in the day by dropping it into a raging torrent of the River Tees.

The camera came with a 50mm f2 lens which seems to produce good images, although the movement seems a little loose when focussing. I also have two Tamron Adaptall lenses with a Mamiya ZM adaptor; a 28mm f2.5 and a 135mm f2.8. So for a total of about £90, I got a very nice three-lens setup, albeit with some minor niggles.  I can also use the Tamron lenses with either my Praktica MTL3 or my Canon FTb. The 135mm lenses also came with an Olympus OM adapter, so if I ever get one of those Olympus SLRs….

I’ve now run a second roll of Agfa Precisa CT100 slide film through the camera and I’ll post the results as soon as the scanning is finished.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Agfa Precisa CT 100 slide film

Within the past year on this blog, I’ve made statements to the effect that (a) I was moving away from 35mm in favour of medium format, and (b) I wouldn’t be buying any more slide film, instead using negative film for colour work.

And yet, Xmas 2016 saw me the proud owner of a new-to-me 35mm SLR from the 1980s and four rolls of Agfa Precisa CT 100 slide film. Indeed, these were presents I selected myself, for the family to give me. How can this contradiction be explained ? Well the easiest way is just to recognise that rational behaviour is not essential when pursuing your hobby; I just felt like having an extra 35mm camera and some slide film.

I will write about new camera in a separate post to follow and concentrate on the Precisa film in this post.

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Agfa Precisa film is much cheaper to buy than some other slide films. I paid just under £29 for four 36-exposure rolls, including delivery, from an eBay seller. By contrast, 4 rolls of Fuji Provia 100F would cost around £47 including delivery, from the cheapest supplier I can see on eBay right now.

The strange thing is, that Agfa Precisa is re-packaged Fuji Provia 100F …..

Every 35mm film canister has a numeric code printed next to the bar code. The number on this film is 105574. You can feed that number into the very useful and simple web site at https://dexter.pcode.nl and find out what the film is. The result looks like this:

dexter-precisa

Now somebody who created the dexter web page must have entered those codes into a database, and it is possible they could be using incorrect information. But it’s not just dexter that thinks Agfa Precisa = Fuji Provia.

The photographic supplier Firstcall states on their web site that “we were intrigued to try the new Agfa Precisa CT100 which is actually not from the old Agfa company at all. In fact it’s not even made by Agfa but actually Fuji Provia F in the box.” I am sure that Firstcall would not make that claim if it wasn’t true, as I don’t suppose they would be allowed to sell Fuji products much longer if they made a false claim.

Having established that we are actually dealing with Fuji Provia 100F, everything that I say below about Agfa Precisa would apply equally to Fuji Provia 100F.

I have used Provia before in medium format, but not in 35mm.

My first outing was a family walk in Rothbury, Northumberland, which produced a few snaps.

 

The next outing was a dedicated photography outing to Teesdale in County Durham, where I would be walking past several waterfalls, on the grounds that there would be plenty of things to point the camera at.

Problem is, waterfalls are a bit of a challenge for slide film, due to the typically very high contrast between the foaming water and the surrounding rocks – the brightness range of the scene will often be too wide to be captured in the limited dynamic range of slide film. In fact, I also prefer photographing waterfalls in black and white, another reason why colour slide wasn’t a particularly rational choice on that day.

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Gibson’s Cave near Bowlees in Teesdale. The stone at the top looks like the underside of a bridge but it is a natural feature.

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The last two images above give some idea of the difficulties in capturing such a wide contrast range on slide film. On the third image, the point where the waterfool enters the pool is very bright. Lightroom doesn’t give the flashing warning for burnt highlights but it must be very close. The dark rocks do have some details but they are a little “muddy”.

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Low Force, on the River Tees.

I would have liked to have the ability to vary the tone on the rocks in the image above in Lightroom, by using selective exposure adjustments to make them lighter or darker. However, attempts to make them lighter just made them a rather muddy purple.

The scanned slide images (scanned on an Epson v700 as 48-bit Tiffs) had very little “headroom” for making adjustments, compared to colour negative film, before image quality suffered.

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The top of High Force

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Vintage post office set into the wall of a farm building at Bowlees

The experience of using Agfa Precisa just reminded me of what I already knew; that slide film doesn’t cope well with a broad subject brightness range; and that the exposure has to be spot on. It also became clearer to me that the scope for adjusting the images in post-processing is mich more limited than it is for colour negative film (in particular Kodak Portra).

I’m not seeking to put any readers off trying out Agfa Precisa; it’s a good film if you are aware of the limitations of slide film and can work within those limitations. If you already like Fuji Provia 100F, and you work in 35mm rather than medium or large format, then it makes a lot of sense to pay less for the same film packaged in an Agfa box.

For me there remain two other practical problems in using slide film. First, because of the limited dynamic range, I am reluctant to go out for a “serious” photography trip with just slide film. That means that the camera loaded with slide film needs to be a second camera, not the only camera, reserved for occasions when the conditions are suitable. So I might shoot the remaining rolls in a nice compact Olympus 35RC for that reason.

Secondly, when I use colour negative film I process it myself and the cost of the chemicals works out about £1 a roll. The developing and postage for one colour slide film cost me about £9.50. I have processed colour slide film  before, but because of the limited shelf life of the chemicals it isn’t practical to keep both the E6 chemicals for slides and the C41 chemicals for colour negative in use at the same time, as they would expire before they are used up.

Finally, the film world is agog with the news that Kodak plan to reintroduce  Ektachrome slide film later this year, which had been “retired” in 2012.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tri-X pushed at Locomotion

I took a trip to Locomotion: the National Railway Museum at Shildon last weekend. This is an outpost of the National Railway Museum at York, and much smaller than the York site but also much closer to home.

I wanted to use the Mamiya RZ67 but wasn’t sure if I’d be able to use a tripod, so decided I would take a monopod and be prepared to push Kodak Tri-X film up to EI1600. This gave me exposures of 1/60s to 1/125s when near the windows of the museum “shed” and 1/30s when further away from the windows, with apertures around f5.6 to f8.

I also limited myself to two lenses – the 110mm and 50mm (equivalent to 55mm and 25mm in 35mm-equivalent terms.

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I developed the film, as usual, in Firstcall B&W film developer, but I didn’t have a time for pushing the film to ISO 1600, so  I used the Massive Dev Chart to eastblish the typical time differential between processing at 400 and processing at 1600, and used a time about 2.25 times for ISO400.

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After scanning with EpsonScan to TIFFs, I imported the images into Lightroom, darkened the blacks, and used a “Selenium Brown” pre-set. When I think an image might need quite a lot of adjustment, I prefer to scan to TIFF rather than JPEG, to avoid the “Jaggies”, i.e. gaps in the histogram following processing.
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I had to open up to f2.8 with the 110mm lens for the image above, which gives the same limited depth of field as f1.4 on 35mm film or full-frame digital, i.e. not much !

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I’m not keen on Tri-X in 35mm, which I find too grainy, but it’s OK in medium format and I think the “gritty” approach of push-processed Tri-X suits these images well.

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By coincidence, there was a classic cars display outside the museum that day, so I took some shots of the cars. These haven’t been processed yet but might make an appearance in a future post.

 

 

Poundland film and Northumbria Bastles

Usually when I go for a walk in the countryside I’ll carry a medium format camera such as the Fujifilm GA645Zi but also tuck one of my two 35mm Olympus 35RC cameras in the bag. If there’s black and white loaded in the GA645 then I’ll take colour in the 35RC, or vice versa.

A few weeks ago I walked the Tarset Bastles Trail in Northumberland with the GA645 loaded with some expired 220-format FP4+ and the 35RC loaded with AgfaPhoto Vista Plus 200. The Agfa film is re-badged Fujicolor 200, which can be purchased for £1.00 for 24 exposures at Poundland, a discount store in the UK.

I used to think of this “budget” film as being only of use for testing a camera in case of light leaks etc, but I am becoming more of a fan. It’s no Kodak Portra or Ektar but it is pretty accceptable. I usually turn down the vibrance in Lightroom when using this film because I prefer more muted colours.

On to the subject matter – bastles are medieval fortified dwellings which were built around the borders between England and Scotland at a time when “rieving”, ie cattle theft, murder, kidnap, etc, was fairly common. The best preserved example on the walk is Black Middens Bastle – I took a pinhole image of this site which unfortunately was ruined by some exhausted developer.

 

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Boghead bastle – unusual in that it’s built in a boggy depression rather than on a hill with a lookout view

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Boghead

 

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Shilva Hill

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This one isn’t actually a bastle, it’s just a gatepost – but you can see that the same local stone has been used. The stones from bastles would often be re-used once they had been abandoned as habitations

The film was home developed in the Fuji Hunt X-Press C41 kit and I was fairly pleased with the image quality. ‘Tis a pity it’s only 35mm …

Thinking about Ilford FP4+ reciprocity failure

I mentioned in an earlier blog post that I had made some pinhole images using Ilford FP4+ without accurately adjusting for reciprocity failure. My quick fix for pinholes has been to switch to Fuji Acros, which requires no adjustments for exposures of less than two minutes. However I then went off and shot two rolls of FP4+ in dark woodlands, with measured exposures of 1-2 seconds, and failed to take any account of reciprocity failure.

Many of the images also used a green filter, and my estimate of the required extra exposure may have been too low.

So I decided that to avoid forgetting to take account of reciprocity failure, I really needed a handy table which I could carry around to guide me. I went off to read the Ilford data sheet for FP4+ which can be found here

Here is the relevant section:

ILFORD CHART

The problem with this table is that it is too small, and is lacking intermediate gridlines, to enable an accurate assessment to be made of the adjusted exposure time. This is particularly true in the <5 seconds range. We can see that a 5 second measured exposure requires an adjusted exposure time of somewhere in the range of 12 or 13 seconds, but measures of less than 5 seconds require a great deal of eyeballing and guessworking based on a very small chart.

So I used the Microsoft Clipping Tool ™ to capture the graph from a PDF, saved it to a JPEG, inserted the JPEG file into Word, and resized the image to fill a page, making sure to keep the original aspect ratio of the image. This enabled me to draw minor gridlines on a 1 second basis between 1 and 10 seconds and to estimate the following set of adjusted exposure times:

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I graphed the resulting numbers to get this chart:

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My chart allocates more space on the horizontal axis for the measured times up to 10 seconds, than for the times above ten seconds. My rationale for doing this was that I will frequently use exposures in, say, the 1-8 seconds range, whereas for me exposures of 10+ seconds are commonly only used for pinhole images.

As well as displaying as chart markers the adjusted exposure times for 0.5, 0.7, 1, 1.5, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, and 60 seconds, the graph includes minor grid lines on the horizontal axis at 1 second intervals, so that intermediate values can be read off the graph for a measured exposure time of, say, 12 seconds.

I should now give some caveats. First, although I think I have been able to display some information with a finer degree of granularity than the original chart, there are limitations to the process, based on issues such as the the quality of my eyesight ! In some cases my estimated interpolations give an adjusted exposure time in between a whole second, eg 6.5 seconds; I have rounded these up because I can’t directly enter these onto a camera. In fact with most of the cameras I use I would be relying on “bulb” mode above 8 seconds and there is no way I can accurately time a bulb exposure to half a second.

Therefore, these tables are nothing more than my initial starting point, which I will try out for a few months to see how they work. I make no guarantees whatsoever about their accuracy !

Now I don’t like to leave a blog post without showing some of my photos, so here are a few examples from the last couple of FP4+ rolls. The underexposure is not too obvious in these images, as the scanner has managed to make adjustments, but some of the images have very poor shadow details when viewed larger.

All images were taken with a Fujifilm GA645Zi and developed in Firstcall B&W film developer.

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Rookhopedale

 

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Rookhopedale

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Nenthead

Looking down the dale

Nentdale viewed from the Nenthead mines

Nettled window

Ruined miners cottages in Rookehopedale

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Rookhopedale

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Allenheads

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Tributary of the Tarset Burn

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The Tarset Burn