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.

Against the Grain

Fall/Autumn time in Tokyo and leaves are finally starting to change color. People are going crazy about capturing the fall colors. Camera stores are pushing new gear and people love the excuse to buy a new camera. As if a new digital camera could somehow capture the colors any better than a 10 year old D700. 

Meanwhile I am shooting the trees in black and white and on film. I don't need instant gratification and I really like it when I can stick the middle finger up to the fast paced world trying to continuously sell me new gear. 

My film camera has zero shutter lag and focuses every time. Perfectly. It shoots when I want it to shoot, unless I'm out of film...

Artisan & Artist Review

Artisian & Artist is a Japanese company that makes camera bags and camera straps. According to their website they provide "a wide range of high quality camera accessories". 

I've had three of their straps now.  

The ACAM-103N wide fabric strap. The ACAM-262 leather strap and the ACAM-310N silk cord. 

I mostly bought them because stores here in Tokyo were pushing them as "superior quality" straps. They all cost over a 100 USD and look beautiful. That is when you but them they look impressive. The packaging and presentation is awesome, but so far not one of them has lasted over a year. Every single one of them had threads at the ring attachment slowly dissolve and come off.

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Anniversary Post

Can't believe it's already been one year since I wrote my first post here. Lot's of things have changed within one year. I have a lot more time to photograph and blog now. I don't know what the next year has in store for me, but I'll probably keep blogging at the same rate, talking to myself... 

Also gave myself a little birthday present. A Fujifilm Instax Mini 90. More instant pictures to come soon. Stay tuned!

Olympus XA2 vs Leica MP + Summicron !

Both take 35mm film, both have 35mm lenses. Both take SR44 batteries, both have a meter, both are  manually wound, both are black, both are ....

Ok, there are a few differences. f/2 vs f/3.5 lens. Manual aperture & shutter speed vs automatic aperture & shutter speed. Manual focus vs zone focus. One is made out of brass and basically indestructible the other is basically cheap metal and plastic. Oh yeah, and the Olympus costs about 1 % of what the Leica will cost you.

Can you tell the difference?

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How to get that film look from your scans.

I used to get frustrated when I scanned my color negatives at home on my OpticFilm 8200 scanner. That scanner is fantastic for slides, how could it be THAT bad for color negatives? 

No matter what I did in post, color negatives from that scanner never looked as good as they did when I printed them wet in the darkroom or had them scanned at a lab.  I almost thought I'll just shoot slides then. Nice idea, but that costs a lot more money for film and processing and sometimes slide film is just not the right tool for the job.

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The lost Generation

All my college memories are gone. No graduation photos, no photos to remember trips, events and friends. 

I graduated in 2007. Digital was the way to go. I thought it was the greatest thing ever. Shoot as much as I want and it was 'free' too. Couldn't get any better. It's 2016 now and I have none of these photos left. Between moving countries, buying new computers and transferring from one medium to another things got lost. The only photos I have left is what parents or friends printed. Very sad.

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Do we still need contact prints?

Now that we can batch scan thumbnails? 

As far as I know, the only use of contact prints was to evaluate which ones were keepers and worth enlarging. I've made contact prints in the darkroom twice. Once for black and white and once for color. Never again. Reason being, when I go to my local rental darkroom to print, I have already decided which frames to print. 

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Gear Lust

Did I really get over it?
In the past few months there's very little that interests me. I don't go to camera stores and I don't read any reviews. After my Ricoh GR1v broke I was looking for the perfect replacement and just couldn't find it. The Ricoh was great for parties and indoor events. It fit in my jeans pocket and just worked.
Finally I gave up and now resort to disposable Fujifilm cameras for parties.

I don't want to worry about having to test new cameras and get used to new gear. "Right tool for the job" - I get it, but the less I have to think about what to use the better.

Latest digital experience.

Last Sunday I met up with a friend who just bought a SONY A7r ii. 

I haven't been following news and rumor sites for almost two years now. Once in a while I see stuff pop up on youtube or facebook. It seems that manufacturers are releasing the same cameras with minor changes every year if not more often. It's really mind boggling how people keep buying these things. A7r ii is one of the latest and most interesting releases in the digital camera market. So I had a 10 minute go at it.

It feels great in hand and looks pretty neat. My sample had a 55mm 1. something lens on it. The first thing that shocked me was the electronic viewfinder. I picked it up, peaked through it and everything looked like you're looking at a video game version of the world. According to my friend and numerous reviews online, this is the best EVF on the market right now. I guess EVFs have far ways to go if they will ever be a competition to bright DSLR viewfinders. 

Next I had a go at shooting some people on the street passing by while I was sitting outside of Starbucks having a coffee. People passing by were almost always between 2-3 meters away from me. It was a nice sunny day so I set the aperture to f8 and wanted to focus to 2.5 meters... but you can't! the lens doesn't have any focal range markings. You have to either auto focus for every single shot (which obviously makes the shutter lag even worse) or use focus peaking to manually focus. While focus peaking works, but is not easy, you have no idea if you're focus is still spot on after a few shots. The lens has no markings whatsoever. Looking at the lens you have no idea whether the focus wheel has turned or not.

Every time you take a shot the EVF blacks out and takes a short but very noticeable amount of time before you can have a go at your next shot. 3 years ago I owned a Nikon D600, which beats any of these mirrorless cameras by leaps and bounds. The viewfinder was crystal clear, bright and beautiful. Like any SLR it blacks out at the moment you fire a shot, but it's only for the duration of the shutter speed. Almost all lenses for the F mount had focal distance scales marked on them.  It looks like DSLRs will dominate for a long time to come. 

On Consistent Look

I've been trying to settle on one film for a while now and just can't do it.

I used to love the grittiness of black and white film and decided I should shoot it exclusively for a while and see where it takes me. That experiment didn't last very long. While I still love the grain and the whole experience of developing my own film, I soon grew tired of the monotone! I love Michael Kenna's work for example but it's a mystery to me how he can refraining from shooting color film ALWAYS. 

Once summer came I felt I need to pop in some color film. I haven't shot a roll of black and white for 3 months now! 

I really admire people who pick a film and stick with it. I can't do it. What works best for me is actually shooting one thing on one film. 

For example, I used to bring different types of film with me when traveling and it turned out to be the same damn problem I had with lenses and cameras. I just hate having to choose which one to use. The less I bring the happier I am. Furthermore, it also makes my shots more consistent. At least on the level of albums. 

For my California/Seattle trip in April for example I only brought Provia with me. The same thing for my summer vacation in Yamaguchi, Japan. I was away for 10 days and brought only provia film, but two cameras. My Leica and my Holga. Next challenge will be to restrict myself to only one camera at all times. 

I can't see myself however going on a long trip and only bringing the Holga.  


A few things I want to get done or change this year:

  1. Stop looking at my phone while I'm walking. It's actually dangerous and it annoys me when other people do it.  
  2. Stop spamming groups on Flickr. What's the point? Get a few more likes? … then what? 
  3. Stop hoarding film. Just because something is going out of production doesn't mean I need to buy it in bulk. If I never cared about it then why care about it when they announce the end of Velvia 100F?  
  4. Worrying about what film I shoot is about as production for my photography as worrying about the latest digital sensor.  
  5. It's getting warmer here in Tokyo now. I want to shoot more in the summer and worry about the darkroom in the winter. Color negative is a nice thing for the winter as the table top processor gives off a lot of heat.