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:

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A batch of boathouses in the Trossachs

The Trossachs, and Loch Ard in particular, are well known for their photogenic boathouses and I couldn’t resist their charms. They do make good subjects, and they don’t move !

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Mamiya RZ67 and Fuji Velvia 50 film, Loch Ard

The above image was taken at the “narrows” of Loch Ard, which is the exit outflow from the Loch, more like a river really than a loch. Just opposite that boathouse is the one below:

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Mamiya RZ67 and Kodak Ektar film, Loch Ard

On the other side of Loch Ard is what is probably the most photographed of the Trossachs boathouses:

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Mamiya RZ67 and Kodak Ektar film, 50mm lens

This is typically photographed with the wooden jetty, which is on the right of my image, in the centre foreground. However there was actually a queue of three photographers waiting to take that image – even though these were the only other photographers I saw all week. (The Trossachs is a bit like the English Lake District, but with only 1% of the number of people about).

I walked around to the other shore and got behind the same boathouse:

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Mamiya RZ67 and Kodak Ektar film, 110mm lens

The same path led me to the distant view of some more boathouses … at this point two of the three other photographers had taken position near the spot I was looking towards, with a pink sweater rather clashing with the autumn hues … I had to be patient.

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Mamiya RZ67, Kodak Ektar, 180mm lens

I moved on to Loch Chon and found another boathouse ….

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Mamiya RZ67, Kodak Ektar, 180mm lens

The next day I cycled around Loch Katrine – it has a private road with very few cars – and found another one. This one is a little more utilitarian but it does have a nice view of Ben Venue on the other side of the loch.

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Fujifilm GA645Zi, Portra 400 film

 

The Falls of Clyde in Autumn

The Falls of Clyde are a beautiful collection of four waterfalls near New Lanark, about twenty miles south of Glasgow, which I visited en route to a few days stay in Callander, in the Trossachs area. I was surprised by how nice the countryside was close to Glasgow and there are lots of photographic opportunites in the area.

After driving a few hours from Newcastle, I was eager to get started with photography and too impatient to thin out my camera rucksack so did the walk carrying the Mamiya RZ67, three film backs, and 50mm lens, 75mm lens with tilt-shift adaptor, 110mm lens, and 180mm lens. I think I did use all the lens but I could have managed with less and had a lighter pack.

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This is the Bonnington power station, unusually attractive for a power station ...

This is the Bonnington hydro-electric power station, unusually attractive for a power station …

The water supply pipes at the back of the power station

The water supply pipes at the back of the power station

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Corra Linn

Corra Linn is the highest of all the falls, at 84 feet. Other visitors told me that the water level was much lower than normal. Obviously the amount of recent rain will influence the water level, but more importantly water can be released from a dam further upstream in order to regulate the hydro power system. I have seen photos with great torrents of water at this spot, which must be quite a sight to see; but personally I find that photographs of waterfalls in heavy flood are less pleasing than the more normal conditions because the shapes and finer details of the water are lost.

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All of the images here were taken on Kodak Ektar film and home developed. I also took a couple of shots on Fuji Velvia 50 slide film, which are lovely to look at, but I used up my last slide film on this trip and don’t plan to buy any more. Most readers will know that slide film has a much lower dynamic range than colour negative film; but the deciding factor for me is that I can’t justify keeping both C41 chemicals for colour negative and E6 chemicals for slide film at home as they would go bad before being used up. So I sent my last two slide films away to The Darkroom UK, who do a fine job with quick return, but commercial processing of slide films work out about three times the cost of home processing of colour negative.

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A ruined iron bridge near Bonnington Linn

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A tiny stream on it’s way to join the River Clyde. The 75mm lens with tilt-shift adapter was used for this image.

You can find more information about the area on the Scottish Wildlife Trust website which includes a short colour movie made in 1926.

 

Single image: Raindrops on grass

I’ve recently returned from a 6-day trip to Scotland, staying most of the time in Callander, in the area know as the Trossachs, but with calls at the Falls of Clyde, south of Glasgow, on the way out, and a detour to the Fife Coast (Crail, Anstruther, and Pittenweem) on the way home.

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I returned with 12 rolls of medium-format colour negative, and two rolls of slide film. So far I’ve developed 7 rolls of film and I’m planning to wait until I’ve got them all done before posting some location-based selections here.

In the meantime I’ll leave this single image which was taken in the Falls of Leny car park near Callander, on a Mamiya RZ67 loaded with Fuji Velvia 50 slide film, and a 110mm lens. I’d just stopped to drink some coffee from the flask, in pouring rain, and noticed these raindrops hanging on the grasses just next to the car.

I would have liked a little more depth of field, but the light levels were very low, and if I pushed the shutter speed too long the breeze may have been a problem; I think the settings I used were 1/15s at f5.6.

More to follow …

 

 

 

Single image: sunflowers

Sometimes I have a roll of film in a camera so long that I forget what was on the film, particularly at the beginning. That’s particularly likely to happen to photographers who have too many cameras (which I do, but probably less than the average). I also have multiple film backs for my Mamiya RZ67, which increases the potential of losing track, including the possibility of forgetting what type of film is loaded …

Anyway I finished off a roll of Tri-X in the RZ67, four months after it was started, developed the film in Firstcall B&W developer, and was pleased to find this image:

Sunflowers

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.