Leica M6 to MP to M2

My old Leica MP after having the skin replaced with something grippier than the factory MP shark skin.

My old Leica MP after having the skin replaced with something grippier than the factory MP shark skin.

I bought my first Leica when I got tired of my Ricoh Gr1v breaking. Repair was so expensive and Ricoh stopped accepting repairs about 5-7 years ago. The M6 was so hyped up on the internet that I didn’t even look at anything else. Got one and liked it a lot actually. Then I learned about the MP and thought how nice it would be to have a more pure one with a metal rewind lever and brass plates instead of zinc. OK, sold the M6 and got an MP now. That one I actually shot from 2014 - now (2019). Never had an issue with it other than a dirty viewfinder or a few loose screws (lol). All easy to fix.

But in January 2019 I got my CFA exam results back and passed. I spent the past half year in my room studying after work until I went to sleep and only shot photos in the morning on my way to work. I was so happy to have passed the exam and rewarded myself with an M2! 

It’s been a dream of mine to buy an old M2 and have it completely rebuilt/refurbished by Kanto Camera. They guys do a great job but it’s not cheap and it takes forever.  

I had mine completely overhauled and painted black. It costs me ¥190,000 and took 5 ½ months...

Thats a lot of time and money. Whether that’s worth it or not depends on your budget and how much you shoot. I use my camera everyday. For me it was worth having a camera I really like using.

M2 when I dropped off for the overhaul.

M2 when I dropped off for the overhaul.



I’ve been a Kanto customer before. Had my MP skin replaced there and my Summicron v4 35mm overhauled. I knew it would be expensive and take time but I also knew that the work they do is second to none. I spoke to Kanto about the project before I bought the M2. I told them what type of M2 I like. The lever rewind and self-timer bodies are my favorites. I don’t plan on using the self-timer but it can act as a nice grip.

Kanto also recommended getting one with a serial number over 1 050 000. I am not exactly sure I understood why, but it was something about the viewfinder. If the finder is bad it’s easier for them to fix it or replace it. The one I found was 1 086 XXX.

It worked fine before I dropped it off. The only thing I didn’t like was the lens mount didn’t click loud enough when mounting a lens. It definitely locked securely but didn’t make the assuring sound the MP made. Anyhow, Kanto said they would try to do their best to fix that. Unfortunately it didn't change that much, even after the overhaul.

New shutter curtains for my M2

New shutter curtains for my M2

Five months after dropping it off they started working on it. Overhaul at Kanto means they take the camera apart completely. Everything that can be taken apart is taken apart, cleaned lubricated and if necessary replaced with a donor part. Kanto told me they even manufacture certain parts that are hard to come by as donor parts in-house.

Matte black paint with off-white engravings

Matte black paint with off-white engravings

Once they started working on it, it took about 3-4 weeks. They stripped the chromed silver off the top and bottom plates, removed the old leatherette and replaced the shutter curtains.

There are tons of options to choose from when you go in for a custom paint job. I didn’t even bother looking at the ridiculous pink and red stuff. My choices were between olive drab, Luftwaffe blue/grey or black. I ended up picking black because they other two options leave the dials and levers silver. I wanted an all black camera, but even within that you have 3-4 different blacks you can choose from. The original black paint M2 bodies were a shiny black paint. I didn’t like that as much. I wanted something that matches the matte, toned down black of the summicron lens I was gonna put on it.

Then they ask you about the color of the engravings and even lugs. Lugs are actually also replaced by default unless you ask them to keep the original ones. For the top plate and dial engravings I picked an off-white. They even offer pre-brassing to make the camera look less factory-new but that was just too ridiculous. Who would pay almost 2,000 USD for a paint job and then ask the same people to take part of it off again before returning it to you. That seemed borderline crazy to me, but check their Instagram feed. About half of their customers do exactly that. I’ll see how long it’ll take for mine to brass naturally. All I can say now is that the paint feels extremely strong. I don’t see this coming off anytime soon.

The shutter release is smooth like butter on the M2. My MP was nice and smooth but nothing even close to the M2. The shutter speed dial was a little stiff when I picked the camera up.I told them about it and they adjusted that on the spot for me. So far I am happy with the camera. The “no meter” thing didn’t take nearly as long as expected. The only thing that bothers me is that the back door has a tiny little play. It shifts left/right if you push it. There are no light leaks and it works flawlessly but I’ll see what they can do about that when go there next time. I highly recommend Kanto Camera. They have fixed lenses for me that other places couldn’t fix or wouldn’t even accept. With this custom paint they surprised me again. The camera feels and looks brand new. I really want to support Leica with their current film bodies, but I just couldn’t resist getting one of these classics.

1963 Leica M2 all done! Complete overhaul, repaint and reskin. New shutter curtains. Basically a brand new camera.

1963 Leica M2 all done! Complete overhaul, repaint and reskin. New shutter curtains. Basically a brand new camera.

TMax P3200 vs Delta 3200

TMax P3200 scanned negative  

TMax P3200 scanned negative  

Early 2018 I was going through some rough time and Kodak’s, out of the blue, announcement of the resurrection of TMax P3200 was just what I needed to cheer me up. 

I’ve more of less settled on Tri-X for most situations and rate Tri-X at 400 and shoot it with a yellow-green filter. Effectively that make it a 250 ISO film for me. Sometimes, 250 iso just doesn’t cut it and that’s when I used Delta 3200. An interesting film with lots of grain. A little too flat for my taste but I had to work with it. I figured out how to make it work for me but never really liked it as much as Tri-X. Delta 3200 is an extremely flat film. Super low contrast and HUGE grain. Some people prefer pushing Tri-X instead but pushing film makes for difficult to print negatives. If you only scan your film this will not be a drawback for you. For me it is, hence I opted for a faster film when I needed speed.

Delta3200 scanned image.  

Delta3200 scanned image.  

Ilford recommends Delta 3200 at EI 3200 to be developed in Microphen Stock 1:1 for 9:00 minutes. I’ve tried that and got incredibly flat and boring results. I kept on increasing development time until I got to a contrast level that I liked. At 20:00 minutes, more than twice the recommended time, I was semi-satisfied. The grain however was horrifying. I like grain but this film is really grainy. 

Delta 3200 scanned image

Delta 3200 scanned image

When Kodak announces the return of TMax P3200 I was pleasantly surprised. I got back into film in 2013, one year after Kodak discontinued P3200. Since I never had a chance to compare the two films I jumped on it.

I ordered 20 rolls from B&H and shot test rolls in T-Max and xtol developers. I didn’t like it in TMax developer but that wasn’t a surprise. I’ve tried that developer before with Tri-X and Delta 3200 and never liked it. It blows out highlights too fast and makes for weird grain to my eyes. In Xtol 1:1 I got results I really liked. The grain is pronounced as you would expect from a film this fast. However, the grain structure was very pleasing and unobtrusive. The tones looked better than Delta 3200, too. In terms of speed I think Delta wins. I know neither one of these films is a true 3200 ISO film but I can get great results at 2000ISO or maybe 2500ISO with P3200. The Delta film I have to shoot at 3200 and massively over develop to get some contrast into the negs. 

As I shoot 35mm almost exclusively TMax P3200 is the clear winner. It’s a dollar cheaper per roll, Xtol is a fraction of any of the Ilford Developers and the film is sharper and less grainy than Delta. Hands down, TMax wins.  

TMax P3200 printed on MCC110 paper.  

TMax P3200 printed on MCC110 paper.  

Why you should not develop color film at home.

Developing B&W film is like making a pasta sauce or salad dressing. Developing color film at home is like cookie cutting. It’s a repetitive and standardized process. 

No doubt, if there’s no lab around, by all means develop your color film at home. Other than that I don’t understand why people do this at home. Developing color film is boring. It’s always the same procedure. If you deviate you get bad results. You can’t try new things like in B&W. You just have to follow the procedure. The process is meant to be done by machines. It’s simply not fun. Even if it works out and trust me, most of the time it won’t.

With color film you cannot easily change contrast for example. I think there’s a way with masks etc but it’s an advanced concept hardly ever used  nowadays. With B&W film you can tweak so many variables by altering the way you process your film. If you deviate with color film you get color shifts. Color shifts are ugly. They are so ugly that it’s almost gag reflex inducing. My advice is: leave color film processing to the labs and enjoy B&W at home. It’s a much more rewarding process. 


Flat Tri-X processing

I keep on hearing about how much Tri-X curls and how people don’t like it for that. I never noticed that issue myself and was always wondering what people  are talking about. It turns out I didn’t notice the issue because I don’t use anything that requires flat film  I stopped scanning my negatives a while ago and make contact prints instead now. I then just scan my prints if I want or need a digital version. Even before that I was using a Pakon and Frontier scanner which pretty much didn’t care about flatness. These scanner take curly film just as well as flat film. In the enlarger it’s obviously also not an issue since you sandwich the film in the negative holder anyhow.  


So i don’t need flat negatives but my Tri-X negatives are still flat as a pancake. I believe this is due to the way I process my film. A while back I got really fed up with purple negatives (see my rants on the blog). I eventually figured out how to get rid of that damn purple/pink stain and in the process I’m also getting flatter negatives. Developer might play a role too but I’m not sure about that.  

They key to flat negatives seems to be the hour long soak in plain water I do before I dry my film.  

In anycase this is my process step by step.  

  1. Develop in xtol 1:1
  2. stop bath
  3. neutral fixer  
  4. quick rinse
  5. Hypo clearing agent 2 mins no agitation  
  6. 1 hour soak in water. No agitation.  
  7. Photoflo
  8. Hang to dry  
  9. flat negatives.  

Fujifilm Acros 100 in D76 1+1

Been wanting to shoot more B&W film this summer. I recently gave Silvermax a try but somehow that didn't work for me. I'm sure it would've if I gave it a bit more thought or tried their dedicated developer. But! Silvermax is not readily available in Japan. There's only one online retailer in Japan that sells this film and it's out of stock right now. It's summer and I wanna shoot. So this didn't work for me and I decided to give Acros a try. 

Acros is readily available in Japan and it's cheap (585 yen/roll) . I know Fuji recently announced the discontinuation of Acros but it is still available now. 

I decided to just stick to D-76 1+1 for my developer. I expect to shoot this film only in harsh contrast on sunny days anyways.  

Basic Test: 

  1.  Find rough developing time
  2. Shoot test shoots at different EI
  3. enlarge test shoots onto paper and pick best one.  


bracketed test roll exposed at different EI settings for N, +3, -4. We are looking for a set of the frames where the -4 exposure barely starts producing density on the film. The +3 exposure should be nearly black. Anything greyish here would mean underdevelopment and probably a low contrast final photo. 

bracketed test roll exposed at different EI settings for N, +3, -4. We are looking for a set of the frames where the -4 exposure barely starts producing density on the film. The +3 exposure should be nearly black. Anything greyish here would mean underdevelopment and probably a low contrast final photo. 

blank piece of film enlarged onto paper to determine min time for max blacks. 2s, 4s, 6s, 8s, 12s etc. Around 12 seconds we're reached max black. Longer exposure will not give deeper blacks. This means that exposing my negatives onto this paper for 12 seconds should be enough to give nice deep blacks.  

blank piece of film enlarged onto paper to determine min time for max blacks. 2s, 4s, 6s, 8s, 12s etc. Around 12 seconds we're reached max black. Longer exposure will not give deeper blacks. This means that exposing my negatives onto this paper for 12 seconds should be enough to give nice deep blacks.  

meter at 100 ISO, +3 stops over exposed frame enlarged onto paper to determine dev time. top: 11'15", center: 10'30", bottom 12'30". Here we are exposing the near black super dense negative onto paper. Right half is covered up completely and hence purest white the paper will produce. The left side is the dense negative at 12 seconds. This should be dense enough to barely produce any tone onto the paper. Just a shade away from white is what we are looking for. Anything darker here would mean low contrast final results. 

meter at 100 ISO, +3 stops over exposed frame enlarged onto paper to determine dev time. top: 11'15", center: 10'30", bottom 12'30". Here we are exposing the near black super dense negative onto paper. Right half is covered up completely and hence purest white the paper will produce. The left side is the dense negative at 12 seconds. This should be dense enough to barely produce any tone onto the paper. Just a shade away from white is what we are looking for. Anything darker here would mean low contrast final results. 

bracketed shots at 150ISO, 100, 75, 50, 32, 25 top to bottom, left to right. All exposed at min time for max blacks (12 sec here) with grade 2 filter. These pictures prove the theory. Too dark means underexposed. Too dense highlights mean too much development. 

bracketed shots at 150ISO, 100, 75, 50, 32, 25 top to bottom, left to right. All exposed at min time for max blacks (12 sec here) with grade 2 filter. These pictures prove the theory. Too dark means underexposed. Too dense highlights mean too much development. 

As you can see from the above tests, this film works best at an exposure beteeen 75-100 ISO.  At 100 the final print is too dark. At 75 I get prints that don’t look dark anymore and at 12:30 mins developing time I get nice contrasty highlights without the need to burn anything in. 

This film is very fine grained in D76 1+1. Maybe a little too fine grained for my taste. I usually only print on 5x7 and at this size the film just looks too clean. For bigger enlargements it is probably a nice choice. If that works for you I highly recommend this film. Get it while you can. Fuji stopped making B&W films and it’s only a matter of time until the current stock runs out. This is the end of a long era. Fuji Neopan films were superb!

Film developing notes

The below film developing notes are meant as a reminder for myself. I’m posting them here to also share with others. Times have been determined by doing a maximum black for minimum time test on fiber paper in my darkroom.

Kodak Tri-X:

  • Exposure 400 ISO
  • Xtol 1:1 distilled water at 20 degrees Celsius
  • 12:30 mins
  • 1st minute constant agitation 
  • 3 inversions every minute
  • Citric acid stop 30 seconds
  • Quick Rinse
  • Alkaline fixer 5:00 minutes same agitation as above
  • 5 min wash in Paterson Tank
  • Let sit for 30-60 minutes in tap water
  • Driwell or Photoflo then hang to dry.


Tri-X at EI 400 in TMax developer 1:7 dilution for 12:30 minutes  

TMax P3200 at EI 2500 in Xtol developer 1:1 dilution for 22:00 minutes .

TMax P3200 at EI 2500 in TMax developer 1:4 for 15:00 minutes.

Ilford Delta 3200 at EI 3200 in Microphen developer 1:0 dilution for 20:00 minutes. 

B&W film & Developer combos that work well

I have been shooting more B&W recently. Mainly because I can print them easily at home. I used to print color at home too, but with no dedicated darkroom that became a little bit too much. I lent my Nova processor to 120love.me for now and concentrated on B&W at home for now.  

I switched from Dektol to Polymax T developer because it’s as cheap if not cheaper and it’s conveniently liquid. I dump my developer after each print session and mix up what I need when I start. 

So far I cannot tell any difference between Dektol, D-72 and Polymax T.  

I still print on 5x7 paper exclusively except for contact sheets. The films I shoot the most are 

  • Tri-X
  • Tmax P3200
  • Delta 3200

I figured out recipes for each of these films. Each grew out of a simple but tedious min time for max black test. I don’t like testing films or cameras but it’s a small price to pay for having easy to print negatives in the darkroom. The more you print in the darkroom the more you appreciate a good negative. While I like the contrary and gritty look of pushed film I absolutely hate printing those negatives. It takes ages, costs me more paper to get it right and just isn’t as much fun. I found that I can get similar results with well exposed and developed film by playing with contrast filters, paper exposure and paper developing times. If I want to print the same negative with a less gritty look I can. With a pushed, thin negative I have no such option. I’m any case, when you go beyond scanning negatives you will learn to appreciate good negatives. 

To get good negatives I had to run some tests. That’s the only way to find out what really works and I encourage everyone to do so too.  

The times listed by manufacturers are usually on the low side to be safe. For Ilford Delta 3200 I found that I need 20 mins in Microphen stock solution instead of the 9 mins they say it needs.  

Ilford Delta 3200

  • Exposure Index: 3200iso
  • Developer: Microphen stock
  • Time: 20.0 mins
  • Agitation: 1st min continuously then 3 inversions every min.  
  • Temperature: 20 Degress Celsius  

With the above method I get great negatives at 3200 ISO. The results are  contrasts and grainy but that’s to be expected when shooting a 3200 iso film. Even on my 5x7 prints I can clearly see the grain. I like it!

Delta 3200 dries flat and has no color cast to the film base.  Not that that matters much if you print instead of scan.  


 TMax P3200

  • Exposure Index: 2500iso
  • Developer: Xtol 1+1
  • Time: 22.0 mins
  • Agitation: 1st min continuously then 3 inversions every min. 
  • Temperature: 20 Degress Celsius 

I’ve tried 3200 iso but that gives really crushed shadows and makes for difficult prints. At 2500 you still get contrasty negatives with deep blacks but manageable. This film is definitely slower than Ilford’s 3200 speed film. Grain is also a little more tamed than Delta 3200. I like the results but I haven’t shot enough of this stuff yet to really say much about it. If you want gritty and grainy pictures go for Delta3200. 


Tri-X 400

  • Exposure Index: 400iso
  • Developer: Xtol 1+1
  • Time: 12.5 mins
  • Agitation: 1st min continuously then 3 inversions every min. 
  • Temperature: 20 Degress Celsius

This is my go to film. In combination with yellow and orange filters I can make this work even on really sunny days. With Xtol I get real box speed out of this film. Extremely versatile film and especially with an orange filter it looks great. The grain seems finer than HP5 plus.  


BW Tips and Tricks

A few things I found working out well for me over the past 4-5 years.
Maybe this could help some new people out there.

All film/dev combos have been determined using distilled water at 20 degrees in Paterson tanks. Everything is based on min time for max black on Adox MCC110 fiber based paper in Dektol 1:2. (I don't print everything, for scans, I found that the development process is much less important)


  • Delta 3200 shot at 3200 in Microphen stock for 20 mins. (The 9 mins recommended by Ilford result in very thin negatives for me)
  • HP5+ shot at 800 in Microphen 1:1 for 15 mins.
  • Tri-X shot at 500 in Microphen 1:1 for 11 min 30 sec.
  • Anything that was shot on my Holga gets Rodinal 1:100 stand development. with 1 agitation at 30 mins. (Delta 3200, Tri-X, etc)
Agitation scheme used: First min continuous agitation. 3 agitations every min after that.
I shoot all B&W films with a yellow filter. Sometimes orange.

Film Development:


  • I don't pre-soak my film
  • I use citric acid stop bath for 30 sec.
  • I fix in neutral fixer for 5 mins.
  • Rinse film quickly after fixing
  • Soak in HCA for 2 minutes (Fuji Quickwash)
  • Wash film for 10 mins (continuous exchange of water)
  • Fill tank with water and let stand for 30 mins to 1 hour
  • Fuji Driwell 30 sec for film to reduce water spots (maybe a Japan only product)
--> film comes out much flatter, pink/purple dies completely wash out.

Fiber Paper Development:
Adox MCC110


  • Develop in Dektol 1:2 for 120 seconds constant agitation
  • Citric Acid stop batch - I don't really time this
  • Fix in Neutral Fixer for 60 seconds
  • Let is sit in holding tray with flowing water
  • HCA (Fuji Quick Wash) for 120 seconds
  • Wash in flowing water for 15-30 mins
  • Soak in Fuij AgGuard for 30 sec
  • Hang on one corner with laundry clips to dry over night (5x7)
  • Hang on two corners with laundry clip to dry over night (8x10 and up)
--> I've tried the screen drying with emulsion down, but that usually curls a lot more than hang drying them.
When you hang dry paper you eliminate local spots of water that I believe are responsible for a lot of the curling.
You will get small marks on the corners from the clips, but they don't bother me much.
I believe the AgGuard may play a large role in keeping the paper flat, too.

**Stand development:
worked well for a while. Using the min time for max black technique I got about 500-640 ISO out of Tri-X. The problem was inconsistency that I failed to notice for months. I know people swear by it, but it will surprise you one day. For Holga shots I don't care much. I can't control the exposure anyways, so I run that film through stand development and generally like the results a lot.

Reviewing B&W film scans

You can review color slides very easily. They all go thru the same standardized process no matter what lab develops the film. We all look at the same non-interpreted results on a light table. B&W film on the other hand has waaayyy too many variables. To review a black and white film you would have to explain your process in detail so it can be replicated by the person reading your review. 

For example:

  • Tri-X exposed at EI 400
  • Developed in D76 1+1 using distilled water at 20 degree Celcius
  • Using 3 agitation cycles every minute after initial agitation 20 cycles within 1 minute.
  • Total dev time 12:00

Film was then printed onto

  • Adox MCC110 glossy 5x7 paper
  • using Adox MCC developer 1+4 dilution with distilled water at 20 degrees
  • constant agitation for 2:00 mins in developer
  • on LPL 7700 enlarger with a filter head and a Nikkor 80mm lens

Developing a few B&W films according to the massive dev chart and reviewing scans of the negatives makes little sense. Scanners are different. I don't like scanning yet I have five scanners:

  • Nikon Coolscan 5000 something
  • OpticFilm 8200i
  • Canon Flatbed Mark II something  
  • Pakon F135
  • Frontier SP500

I get very different results from the different scanners. What scanners also do is auto-correct badly exposed or developed negatives.  So when I review B&W film in the future I'll try to concentrate on the negatives and how they print and how they scan rather than comparing scans of one film to another. 

In case you didn't know. Ilford Delta 3200 in Microphen is magic. 


Yellow & Orange filters vs pushing B&W film

Yellow, Orange, Red etc. are contrast filters for B&W films. Most modern film is panchromatic, meaning it's pretty much sensitive to all colors we can see with our eyes. This is great, the first black and white films were orthochromatic and didn't see red, which would just show as black no the print (clear on the film). Actually exactly what your black and white paper does.

People call these black and white contrast filters. It is true that they change the contrast of black and white images but not the overall contrast, just selected contrast. Panchromatic film sees all colors more or less at the same brightness, meaning a blue sky and light grey cloud of the same brightness appear almost the same shade of grey. We see color contrast between different colors and on top of that the color yellow will always look brightest to us, blue always darker. Even though the blue sky may have the same brightness as the cloud it will always look darker to us and hence the white cloud stands out. A person against a grey concrete wall is another good example. The grey wall may be the same brightness as the skin of the person, but the skin will always look brighter to the human eye. What you want to do with your b&w film is mimic this. You add a yellow filter for example and all light that hits your film now has to travel through the yellow filter first and will mix to a different color. 

The opposite of yellow is somewhere near blue on the color wheel. So the blue sky will now look very dark on your film. The white cloud is a mixture of all colors so a lot of that light will pass through and it will look very bright. A yellow leaf will almost pass through 100% and hence look white on the film (actually black on the film, white on the print)  Human skin has a lot of yellow and hence will look much brighter when adding a yellow filter. This works for all races by the way. Human skin regardless of tone always follows a mixture of Red>Green>Blue or Cyan<Red<Yellow.

Some people may say that pushing film will give you a similar effect but that's not quite true. Pushing film will increase the overall contrast of the picture. Filters will selectively increase contrast. 

For really interesting results, try pushing Tri-X two stops with a red filter. Have fun!

Adox Silvermax in D76 1+1

We're in the middle of the raining season here in Tokyo, which means summer is around the corner. I was thinking I'll shoot some more b&w film this summer and wanted to test a few 100 ISO rated films for those really bright days. I almost always shoot with a yellow or orange filter, but even with that my usual Tri-X is just too fast for a day in the sun. So I tried out a few 100 speed films that I had lying around still. Fomapan 100, Ilford Delta 100 and Adox Silvermax.

I am going to review the Silvermax here and the other two in a follow up post. I didn't want to mess with too many developers, so I decided to soup them all in D-76 1+1, same formula I use for Tri-X. Since I print a lot of my negatives in the darkroom I do appreciate an easy to print negative. For people who only scan their film this may not be worth reading at all. 

I shot a test (half-roll) setting my cameras meter to an ISO, then shot one normal exposure, one +3 stops over, one -4 stops under.

Daylight scene: (100, +3, -4), (200, +3, -4), (50, +3, -4)

Grey surface: (100, +3, -4), (200, +3, -4), (50, +3, -4)

The film was developed in D-76 1+1 at 20 degrees for 11:00. 

I judge my personal film speed from the shots of the grey surface. At -4 stops I should see some density starting to build up. The first set, shot at 100, +3, -4 has basically no density at the -4 bracket (frame 29). Over to the 200, +3, -4 set. Frame 35 above is basically clear film base, so this is not it either. Over to the 50iso set.  The -4 frame has a decent amount of density showing up. Maybe even a bit too much for my taste. I like my shadows! So I am guessing that for my developing technique with my tanks and my water and my agitation and my room temperature etc. this film's speed for my taste is somewhere between 50- 100 ISO. Let's say 64ISO.

To confirm, I expose the corresponding frame of the daylight scene (frame 17) onto paper. I do this using minimum time to get maximum blacks. If the print is to dark that means I was wrong and the frame is underexposed. If it's too bright I was wrong and the frame was either overexposed or over developed. In my case frame 17 actually prints OK, but with very low contrast. I can increase the development time to get denser highlights and increase the contrast. (or mess with the contrast setting on the enlarger, but the goal is to get an easy to print negative) Increasing dev time unfortunately does almost nothing to the shadows, hence no change in film speed here. I could keep trying to change the dev time until I get the contrast I want or just use the Silvermax developer they offer, but I decided not to. 64ISO is a little bit on the slow side for my taste. I was looking for true 100ISO and actually found that in Delta 100. I'll review that in a future post.

Adox Silvermax is still a fine film. In D-76 1+1 it exhibits extremely fine grain. By increasing the development time by 20% it will probably have good contrast too. The film has a very clear base, no tint whatsoever, which makes it easy to print or maybe even reverse develop into slides. The only thing that slightly bothered me is that Adox seems to use a half frame perforator to print the edge marking. Not a big deal, but I am used to the proper 36 exposure codes of Ilford and Kodak. Foma also uses half frame markings. Interesting choice, considering there's very few people shooting half frames.


** So reading Kodak's D-76 tech sheet it seems that you need at least 237ml of stock D-76 for each 135-36 roll of film. At 1+1 in 300ml I only have 150ml. According to Kodak I either increase the development time or the tank size. That explains the underexposed negatives above.  

Why hoarding film doesn't work

Sometime in 2015 when it was announced that Provia 400X was going to be discontinued I made a decision to buy a 5pack every time I go to Bic Camera. At that time I shot a lot of color film and went to Bic Camera to drop off or pick up film for developing quite a bit. I think I ended up with some 30 pro packs (5 rolls). I believe the film was already discontinued outside of Japan. This was really my last chance to buy the stuff and be able to shoot it for the foreseeable future.

The crazy thing is it's 2017 now and I still have over 100 rolls left of it. Most of the stock I have either has expired already or is approaching expiry. It's all been frozen since purchase and will probably be ok to shoot even post expiration date, but for how long? It could take me years to go through all this film.

The really crazy thing is that I already had a 100 rolls of Ektar 100 in my freezer. I bought that because Kodak doubled their prices in Japan sometime in 2015. Ektar used to be the cheapest color pro film they had. I think it was 3500 yen for a five pack. (700 yen per roll) They increased it to 1350 for single rolls. So the five packs and single rolls were on sale side by side for a while. I couldn't resist buying all the Ektar I could afford when I saw them side by side with a 100% price difference.

Now I had over 200 rolls of film in my freezer already and discovered how nice of a film Kodak Gold 200 is. So I went on Yahoo auction and bought a 100 pack of that for dirt cheap. I was already used to buying film in bulk so it didn't even register how crazy of an idea this was. Well, after shooting Ektar and Gold 200 the entire summer of 2015 I really got into B&W because I loved that I can print it at home. I never bought that in bulk because I couldn't find any deals. I just ordered from B&H in batches of 10 - 15 rolls as needed. 

The crazy thing is that now it's 2017 and I still have my freezer full of film. I haven't bought color film in over two years and probably won't have to for the next 3-5 years the way things are going now. The film will probably not deteriorate in quality much over that time since it's frozen. It's just crazy to buy that much film. You just don't know what you're going to be shooting. We can't predict the future, and if I could I would use it for things other than saving some money on film that's going up in price.

Buying and hoarding expired film is even worse. You don't know how the film was stored. Old film will curl a lot more than fresh film. You won't get colors as they were intended. The celluloid base of the film won't last forever either. Color film lasts for about 50 some years I believe until vinegar syndrome sets in and the acetate base will rot away. If you buy film that expired 10 years ago, you are already 10 years into those 50 years, meaning that your photos are only good for another 40 years after developing the film. There are ways to extend the life time of film by storing it in a freezer but who really does that except for Hollywood? I don't know anyone who stores their negatives in a freezer at home.

Maybe you don't care about the negatives because you can hold onto the scans. That's a valid for some people, but why not shoot digitally then and use VSCO to get the film look?

Shoot fresh film. Support the industry and enjoy the film as it was intended to.

Saul Leiter: A Retrospective in Tokyo

So while shooting in Shibuya last weekend I passed by one of the Daikokuya shops in the red light district. It's a place that among many other things resells tickets. I usually don't pay much attention to what they have, but something caught my eye. I saw the words ソール ライター (Saul Leiter in Japanese) on one of the flyers they had posted outside. Amazing, I thought. The amount of information we actually process unconsciously... anyhow I checked it out online. It turns out this is the first time ever to have Saul Leiter's work exhibited in Japan. I am a pretty big fan of his and already have one of his color books. I went back and immediately got tickets and went the same day. 

I initially intended to record a video of the exhibition, but sure enough they didn't allow any cameras inside. 

The show starts with his black and white work he shot mostly for Harper's Bazaar. All the black and whites were silver gelatin prints ranging from at least 20x24 to 5x7 prints. All of them amazing. I don't know who made the prints or how old they are but they look fantastic. The show then moves into his color work. All chromogenic prints except for one cibachrome print I spotted. They were all originals, no reproductions of prints. One small part of the show showed some of his paintings. I have to say I was the least impressed with them, but I am not much into paintings and maybe other people would find that interesting. I know to him it was a big deal and probably what made him such a good photographer.

I was also able to pick up a few postcards and a book of the pictures from the show. See pics below. It really is different seeing all his work in person with your eyes instead of looking at scans of photos of photos online. If you're in Tokyo and interested in photography I highly highly recommend going there. The tickets can still be purchased at the entrance for a slightly higher price (1400 yen) and the show is on until June 25th, 2017.




What I like about photography and why digital doesn't work for me

I've been trying to figure out why I enjoy photography so much and what it actually means to me. To play basketball it's advantageous to be tall, to skate it's advantageous to be short etc. etc. I can't play basketball or skate in a halfpipe when I'm 60+ years old. In contrast, for photography all I need is a camera. Sure, it takes skill to be really good, but my photos don't have to speak to everyone. As long as they mean something to me that's enough. What I enjoy the most is looking back at photographs I've taken a few years ago. I just love that photographs are a record of light and time. Especially with film or any analog form of producing an image for that matter, I have a physical piece of the past in my hands. I just don't get the same feeling looking at digital images taken a few years back. Every time I open a file, it's being recreated on a computer screen. It's a representation of how that screen and computer interpretthe data, while a piece of slide film or a print (from a negative or digital file) is a presentation of the past. Presentation vs Representation of light and time.

My grandpa used to shoot a lot in his days. I've been trying to get a hold of his photos for the past few years. It isn't easy with my family being spread over four different countries and continents! I know that he shot a lot and I wanna see what he saw then, what interested him and how stuff looked back then through his eyes (or lens). I then suddenly realized that the only way we can ever do that is by not only having a digital catalog of our photography. Unless you print your work or shoot film and have a physical copy of your photos it will die with you.

When I shot digital, I had all my photos in Lightroom on my computer that was obviously password protected. I also had a backups online, and those were obviously protected, too. When our time is up, all this data will stay locked on hard drives or cloud accounts until the dormant accounts finally gets deleted by whatever company you hosted the data with. Unless you know when you're gonna drop, and somehow manage to share your password in time, all your photography will die with you. Imagine if Vivian Maier shot digital. Her work would've never seen the light of day. It's arguable whether she would've liked it or not, but I am trying to point out that it would've been impossible. Her photos would not have been locked up in some storage, they would've been on some hard drive or cloud service. Lost forever.

Make sure you print your work or have some sort of physical copy of it.

The 50mm focal length. Not for me

I somehow prefer focal length below 50mm. I know that sometimes the "bi-pedal" zoom just doesn't work. Some places you just can't get to by walking up. Now, when you're shooting a wedding or need to grab shots of a crime scene what's important is to get the shot. It'll be more about the situation and the record in time than the esthetic of the shot itself. 

I just don't like the compressed look of photos taken with a long lens have. To me even a 35mm lens looks a little bit "zoomed in" but it's still natural.

The sweet spot for me would be somewhere between 28-35mm but in Leica world there's not much. The other issue I have with wider than 28mm is that Leica's frame lines suck for that focal length. You can barley see them. 28mm probably is a better focal length for an SLR. I'd go as far and say that the only really usable focal length on a Leica rangefinder are 35mm and 50mm. Since I don't really dig the 50mm look I am stuck with 35mm on my Leica. Maybe a blessing in disguise, considering the steep prices of Leica lenses.

I get that it's a lot easier to shoot with 50mm lenses. You can isolate your subject and have less distraction in the frame. Easy doesn't equal better. Easy photos also look boring. There's no sense of place or surroundings. If I shoot a cat on a 50mm at f/2 you have no frame of reference. The photo could've been taken 50 years ago and it'd look the same. I'd rather give up on the higher keeper rate and have a natural look to my images. But that's just me. I like to have a sense of time and place to the pictures I take. I like to look at old photos and every time I do I just feel this "wow this is a from that time. This is how things were back then and it's recorded right here." If my photos are all of isolated subjects with blurred out background, I am not getting that. Don't fall into that bokeh trap.

The other great benefit of 50mm lenses is that you have less problems with distortion.  On a 35mm lens you really have to already make sure that you keep the lens parallel to your subject. (Unless you shoot a tilt-shift). What that means is a lot of squatting with your 35mm lens!

So with a fifty you don't have to squat, you can easily isolate your subjects, you get better bokeh your photos look more impressive to other people, you'll get more 'likes' online. 

On a 35mm it's quite different. It's either right or wrong. Once you tilt the plane with a 35mm lens it just looks wrong. You cannot easily isolate subjects. You barely get any bokeh. Your photos have neither the cool wide-angle nor the bokeh compressed looks. In fact 35mm can look quite boring. It really is a lot harder to get keepers on a 35mm I find. But when you do, they are really good! 

So yes, a 50mm is the gift that keeps on giving. You'll have so many keepers and the best thing is they will all look very similar. You don't even have to go places to shoot anymore. Once you bokeh the crap out of your background it doesn't matter where you are. It all looks the same. Blurrrr. 

Anyways, I don't mean to dis 50s, or anybody using 50s. In fact I have good friends shooting 50s and I actually like their photos but whatever makes it work for them, it doesn't do it for me. I am jealous. I want more keepers, too!

I wrote this article in May 2016, and kept in in 'drafts' just in case I change my mind. It's May 2017 now and I still agree with the above. Thought that was worth mentioning.

Messing around with too many film stocks

Why stick to only one film?

In short: To eliminate variables.

It's very tempting to try out new films and see what results you can get with different films and developers. Ferrania for example just announced their first film. An 80 ASA B&W film in 35mm. And Yes! I was tempted at first. I'd love to try it and help them test the film, but I just went through a testing phase for 100 speed films. I shoot 400iso 80% of the time and 3200iso for the remainder. I rarely need a 100 speed film for my type of shooting. Sometimes it does come in handy though. On the beach or on a snowy mountain in full sunshine, I just can't make the 400 speed film work without stacking filters. So I got myself some Fomapan and Silvermax to test and I don't like testing films. It costs money and takes time. I don't feel like going through another test for this new P30 film.

The problem with shooting many different films and processing them in different developers is that your number of variables grows. If something goes wrong or you don't like the results you don't know where to start fixing it. If you only scan your film this makes very little difference, but then you might as well just shoot digital and apply a film filter. I like to be able to print my work. I don't print all of my work, but I like that I have the option to print it and when I do print I noticed that having a good negative makes all the difference. There are many ways to arrive at a good negative and it can be overwhelming.

FilmStock^n + Dev^n + DevDilution^n + Agitation^n + Temp^n + DevTime^n + EI^n + Paper^n + PaperDev^n + etc... = # of ways that you can tweak to get a decent negative.

This is nuts. If you keep changing things  you'll never arrive at consistent results unless it's by luck. Keep as many variables constant as you can. If something does not come out to your liking you can start tweaking one variable and observe if that makes a difference without having to guess. starting by these three makes the most sense to me:

  • Shoot 1 film stock
  • Use the same Developer
  • Keep temperature constant * (more on that below)

* Keep the temperature the SAME! I know people argue that chemical reaction speeds up with increase in temperature and you just adjust the dev time and arrive at the same results. While that is true in general, there is more to it than that. When you change temperature there are a few things to consider. The gelatin of the emulsion absorbs developer at different rates depending on temperature. This is change is most likely not linear with how silver halide reactivity changes. Even worse the developer itself is made up of:

  • Developing agent
  • Preservative
  • Accelerator
  • Restrainer
  • (buffer)

Unfortunately these components don't change linearly when you increase temperature. To make things easier, just keep everything at 20 degrees until you get constant results that you like. 

In my case I try to stick to Tri-X and Delta 3200 for most situations. The D3200 I only use for indoor low light situations. I find it too flat for anything else. Tri-X, or any other 400 speed film is actually really versatile. I shoot mine at 500iso. Usually I have a yellow filter on the lens which brings it down to an effective speed of 320iso. If I need even slower than that I take out the orange filter which puts it to 125iso. 

f/16 1/125, f/8 1/500, f/5.6 1/1000

I can work with that.

Pushing Black & White Film

I have recently gone through some re-organization of my film archive and noticed that one of my first few rolls of film, in fact number 2, was Tmax 400. I shot it in my Ricoh GR1v and had it developed at a local lab. I was new to film and new to the GR1v, which is now broken beyond repair. The GR1v reads the Dx code on the film canister and sets the ISO speed automatically. I thought I had no choice but shoot it at that speed. I now understand that you can just set the exposure compensation to -2 stops for example. 

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