Friday, December 25, 2015

Cinematic Photography (night)

Cinematic Photography is an expression that I came across lately. Another name for the same genre seems to be "Hollywood Look".

There is a difference in tone rendering between photography and cinematography, no doubt. However, a certain flavour of street photography, in particular during night time, adopted the Hollywood cinematography look.
To my surprise, it is very effective, and very simple to do.

Before learning about the "Hollywood Look", I just enjoyed watching Hollywood movies once in a a while. Now that I am aware what the effective colour composition used for the Hollywood look is, I am surprised to find it all over the place, e.g. in commercials.

Now, what is so particular about that "look"?

The basic concept seems to be to create a background in complementary colours of the foreground. The foreground will therefore be dominant over the background.

Movies usually tell stories about humans. Those typically have an orange skin tone. So, in order to put an emphasis on the "subject", i.e. the actor, one would tone the actor in the scene in an orange like hue. To make the actor pop, the background would now be toned in the complementary colour, i.e. turquoise.

With that knowledge, watch a Hollywood movie! You will notice, there is a strong preference to orange tones, accompanied by blueish and/or greenish backgrounds.

The Hollywood Look follows a really basic compositional principle that warm colours attract, while cold colours repel (fore- and background).

Let's have a look on a simple photography

Nathan Phillips Square, Toronto

The very same photography, with a Hollywood look applied

Cinematic look

So, what did I do to achieve this look?
First of all, this applies to nighttime images. Nothing I will tell you here will look good in daytime pics!

To achieve the look, I used 3 steps, which only concerned colour temperature.
  1. Graduated filter from the top, decreased colour temperature (getting some blue)
  2. Graduated filter from the bottom, adjusted tint to green
  3. Broad radial filter, warm up colour temperature
The above filters can be stored as presets.
I advice to store the radial filter within the above mentioned presets. 
Now, having applied a preset, the radial (orange) filter can be used as a spotlight, to determine the area to be highlighted.

Concluding, it seems that a rather blue upper portion, a greenish lower portion and a foreground mid-portion having orange tint, define the look of movies.
Very often, the blue is ignored and replaced by turquoise produced by the original process.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Charging by USB

This might be a bit of a controversy, shall or shall not digital camera manufacturers add an external charger or not. To make a long discussion short, of course they should!

Similarly controversially discussed, shall camera manufacturers add internal USB chargers in their camera. At least for me, that is a very clear yes again.

While staying in one part of the world, having dedicated chargers might be a good idea, such that while using one, a second battery can be charged. Of course, I do that!

However, the story changes when we think of travelling, in particular when travelling light.
For many years, I travel with cabin luggage only. That means restrictions concerning the equipment that travels with me.
When it comes down to travelling to a country with different wall sockets, adapters for mains supplies are slowly coming into the picture. While those things are not heavy, they add some volume to the baggage and so do chargers and power cords.
So, imagine that, you travel, with a notebook computer and a camera, a light as possible. Clearly, the computer requires a power supply, no doubt about that.

Presently, there is only one mirrorless system and one compact camera in my possession allowing for internal charging of the batteries by USB connection.

  1. Samsung's NX system (NXmini, NX300, NX1)
  2. Ricoh GR
From earlier posts, you might know that the Samsung NXmini and the Ricoh GR are my main cameras for street-photography. Good news that both can charge their batteries from USB power.

During my last 2 stays in North America, I used the NXmini (with 3 lenses) exclusively. It was always charge by the USB port os an ASUS netbook. Eventually, I just connected the camera to transfer the images, when that was done, I just switched the camera off, but left it connected, so it would charge the battery.
This method worked for me 100%.

For my next stay in Canada, I will further reduce volume by using the Ricoh GR.

With the Samsung NX system, I got a mini camera, a carry about camera and a prosumer camera, which all can be charged by USB connection.
The Ricoh GR, my favourite street-shooter got it too.
=> Lucky me!
However, I wished that more manufacturers would follow the example and add internal charging of the batteries.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Best Match

Matching lenses to any mirror-less camera system does not seem to be such an easy task
That's my turn on the match.

What are the requirements of a match?
  • sensor size close to the design of the lens
  • focus peaking for manual lenses
  • ease of handling
In my personal arsenal, there are Canon EF compatible and M42 lenses. For the assumption of convenience, I would like to write about manual lenses only... M42 are all manual, EF, should not be, besides the funny stuff created by Lensbaby, or the manual lenses made by Samyang.

Regular readers of my blog already know where this is going towards... adapters!
Indeed, my collection holds adapters from EF and M42 to MFT, FX and NX.

Focus peaking?
  • MFT (my cameras) - not supported - some basic hack using art filters of the Olys
  • FX - focus peaking included - poor performance
  • NX - focus peaking included - good performance - press OK bottom every time!
Lenses I use:

Canon EF:
  • full Lensbaby set
  • Samyang 24mm T-S
  • Samyang APS-C Fisheye
  • 28mm f/2.8
  • 35mm f/2.8
  • 50mm f/1.8
  • 55mm f/1.4
  • 90mm f/2.0
  • 135mm f/2.8
So, there we got 3 system against 2 lens families.
The systems got the pros and cons:
  • MFT - in body image stabilisation, 16 Mpix
  • FX - best sensor, 16Mpix
  • NX - best focus peaking, 20Mpix

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Unmatched Pairs

Sometime you wonder what is going on in the head of marketing and sales departments.Usually, the confusion between marketing and sales opens some opportunities for bargain hunters.
Fujifilm did just that this very year.

Since my very first steps in photography, during the 70s and 80s, I used Fujifilm products. To that time, this was limited to film, the cameras were beyond my reach.
However, lately, having returned to film, I was able, thanks to ebay, to obtain some still expensive secondhand medium format Fujifilm cameras. Wow, what beauties, what an image quality!

Concerning digital, Fujifilm made some remarkable cameras, e.g. the X100S, which I am lucky to own. As much as I like the X100S and its tele-converter, the camera is still limiting, since it does not allow for shooting with my old glass from the film days.
Even before the X100S, Fujifilm sold a camera, called X-Pro1, for a professional price. No way I will ever buy this camera, I thought. Time proved me wrong, in the middle of 2015, I actually bought the X-Pro1, as a special sales, due to the announced advent of the new X-Pro2 in fall the same year. Well, the X-Pro2 is yet to appear on the market.
Anyway, the offer of just €900,- including the X-Pro1, the XF 18mm f/2, the XF 27mm f/2.8 and a leather case, was just too good to not take. The prices of the 2 included lenses added result in a greater sum. A no brainer!

So, the X-Pro1 combined with the XF 18mm is a nice moderate wide angle camera. However, the 27mm never made any sense, in particular I felt it was important to get a XF 35mm f/1.4, which now is my favorite lens with the X-Pro1.
The 18mm and the 35mm, both add to the old school feel, due to the aperture rings of those lenses. The 27mm, lacking an aperture control ring falls short in this respect and consequently has not seen any action with the X-Pro1.

I consider the X-Pro1 and the XF 27mm an unmatched pair, not making much sense other than emptying warehouses filled with soon to become obsolete and unwanted products.

Along came another offer, the entry model into the X cameras, the X-M1. A local store got those on outlet, including the XC 16-50mm zoom for just €290. Seen that another local store offers a secondhand XC 16-50mm lens for €300, this is a lens with a free X-M1 body... which I could not resist!
Picked up the package today, just to find out, that this was yet another unmatched pair. This time, not Fujifilm's strategy... The X-M1 body came in black, as ordered, the lens came in silver, despite the offer said black. Of course, having a silver lens on a black body looks crap... however, I decided, that I should not care about the looks, in particular since the X-M1 will be used with the XF 27mm anyway.

By the way, the X-M1 with the XF 27mm not only looks killer, it creates superb images, just what I was hoping/shopping for. Splitting 2 unmatched pairs might still result in matches at end.

Finally, the X-Pro1 and the X-M1 share the same battery format. So, the X-M1 body really add to a X-Pro1 bag.

Concerning the remaining ugly duckling, the silver XC 16-50mm, I put it in front of the X-Pro1, despite looking stupid, the lens balances nicely. I also learned that the frame-lines in the optical viewfinder change with the zooming. On the wide end of the lens, the X-Pro1's optical viewfinder is just not wide enough, but only by a fraction.
Despite of not looking good together, the XC 16-50 might fit the X-Pro1 just fine as an all purpose walk and shoot about lens.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Free Camera

Off I went, shopping, for 2nd hand gear again.

I am a wide-angle guy, at least this is what I love for use in street-photography. Having browsed the local stores for a while, I found a Panasonic 14mm f/2.5 (first generation) for just shy of 200 Euros. Actually, the lens was not listed individually; to be precise, the lens was not listed at all. What was listed was a Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF3, which the 14mm lens attached.
Interestingly enough, another store had the lens itself listed for 200 Euros, i.e. the same price.

You guessed it, I took the one that came with a free camera attached.

The use of the 14mm lens is rather obvious, it will go into my OM-D outfit; this is what I bought it for.

Now, what can be done with the Lumix GF3? The GF3 is a first generation MFT camera with a 12 Mpix sensor. The camera is trimmed to be as small as possible, minimal controls. It is not meant for the prosumer, that's for sure. At least is shoots in RAW, that's a plus.
At its time, the GF3 was the smallest interchangeable lens camera. That title was taken by Pentax with their Q-system not too long thereafter. However, that might actually set the theme of my use of the GF3.

Some of my favorite street-photos where taken with an Olympus PEN E-PM2 and an Olympus 15mm body cap lens (BLC-15). In comparison to the GF3, the E-PM2 is relatively big. Consequently, it might be actually a good idea to fit a BCL-15 to the GF3. After all, the 15mm BCL would be close to the 14mm lens I closed the deal for.
Of course, the GF3 needs to be set to shoot w/o lens, since the BCL-15 does not have electronics built in. Other settings might need revision as to get the best out of the combo.
First shots promise big time fun using the GF3 with a BCL-15.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

4x5 Press Kit

What a nice day! My genuine package arrived today, howling a full 4x5 press camera kit to me, including a case, 10+ film holders, a flash and that came in a fitting case! And yes, this cost me just over US$150.
The images on the bay showed some corrosion... for that price, who cares? Actually, the film holders alone would have been worth the purchase.

To be honest, the camera seems to be missing some bits and bops. Nothing vital however.

At first, the shutter was all frozen up due to corrosion. I took some forceful persuasion to get the T setting to work. I continue on B, with decent force and some patience. Some tries later, I got the shorter time operational, so, from s/400 to s/10 where up fine. So, the 2 higher speed gears are up and running now. Still., the lower speed gear seems to giving me attitude.
Some playing got s/5 going fine.
However, there are still 2 speeds not going smoothly: half second and one second.
Contrary to my earlier Graflex shutter fix, this time it seems that I do not have to disassemble the shutter and re-grease all the gears.

However, with that kit, it is not all smooth sailing. This kit employs a Graphlock back, which depends on springs. Said springs are in this model corroded too, and hence, do not show the prompt springy action you will need for operating the camera smoothly.

Also, there seems to be some fungus on the outer surfaces of the rear lens group. The front group appears to have suffered from a quick clean (hopefully w/o any damage).

Next steps for me:
  • clean the lens groups
  • clean the ground glass
  • replace some lost screw
  • make sure the bellow is tight
  • make a new hand strap
  • remove corrosion from and grease all springs
  • fix an electronic flash into the flash unit
All in all, this was another XMAS-Xperience today!

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

OMG the NX mini

As a street photographer, never in my life, I could imagine that a selfie camera grows to my heart as quickly as easily. And here it is, the Samsung NX mini, the ultimate selfie camera, and I am a fan boy by now!
To be honest, I bought the camera (with the 9-27mm kit lens) when it was at sale, just for the Lightroom 5 licence which came with it. Actually, I was prepare to sell the camera for cheap and keep the LR5 licence. It turned out that I kept the licence and the ultimate selfie camera.

Why am I calling this camera "the ultimate selfie camera"?
Well, there are 2 obvious reasons:

  1. it powers up when the display is flipped up to 180 degrees
  2. it comes with 2 lenses covering 9mm (equivalent to 24mm on 135 film)
There are more indicators for the camera being the ultimate selfie camera:
  • very small form-factor
  • various selfie trigger modes using gesture detection
  • "stylish" colors
  • the 9mm pancake prime lens does not even allow for a lens cap
You that you have seen me writing 9mm twice, you might ask yourself, that the deal with that focal length is. On a 1" sensor, that would be equivalent to a wide angle of 24mm on 135 film, which is a pretty wide angle perspective. When taking selfies that means that with the your arm extended, you still get something of your surroundings in the shot.
It also means that camera shake does not really blur up your shot as much with slower shutter speeds.

Another factor, besides the lenses, would be the color the camera is available in. I choose mine to be brown. Actually, I do not like the color at all... however, the color is dim and makes me look like a hipster type tourist... When I pull up the camera, people just ignore me. What more can you ask for?!

The small form factor speaks for itself, I figure.

The immediate purchase to fit the kit to my needs was the 9mm pancake prime! And this lens did not disappoint! The NX mini with the 9mm prime installed is thin enough to fit into my Jeans' pockets effortlessly. Not having to care about a lens cap, or extending the lens (like one needs to do with the 9-27mm zoom) the camera is ready for shooting in a few seconds. And again, with such a device, no matter how close you are, nobody takes you seriously as a photographer (unless you act strangely, of course), still the image quality of the 1" sensor is good enough to publish... in particular since the camera is able to write RAW-files.

The image stabilized zoom I have not used much... here and there... it is small enough to fit in any pocket, so I had it with me a lot. Again, it did not see a lot of action.

The latest purchase, I could not resist, was the 17mm image stabilized f/1.8 "normal lens" (about 50mm in 135 terms). A hard purchase it was, I can tell! First I ordered it locally, after a month, the seller reimbursed my money. I tried Samsung locally... item unavailable... I tried Samsung globally... no luck. Finally, I found a seller in the UK who had a single specimen... which I bought.
BTW, the process of locating this particular lens took about 4 months. The costs for the lens were about the cost for the camera w/ the kit zoom lens.
Yesterday, the precious 17mm f/1.8 arrived.
First tests showed that the lens was not only worth the wait but also the money! When shot wide open, the bokeh is adorable! Image stabilization does a great job shooting handheld with the shutter open for 1 second (technique: exhale first, press shutter, inhale when the shutter is closed).

Some features I do not like about the NX mini:
  • no battery charger provided
  • charges via USB only
  • microUSB
  • expensive lenses having plastic bayonets
  • no PC-sync or hot shoe connectors
  • no remote shutter release
  • WiFi controls limited
Some stuff I really like:
  • touch shutter release
  • full manual mode
  • manual focus difficult to change (*)
  • flip-up screen from 0 to 180 degrees
  • leaf shutters in lenses
  • auto ISO in manual mode
Why is any of this relevant?
  1. When you waiting for a shot in front a of setup, the lens way open, you want to take the shot with just pointing the finger on the point of focus.
  2. You might want to be in total control of your depth of field and the motion blur.
  3. Once focused, you want to be able to rely of the hyper-focal distance set.
  4. Looking down rather than towards your subject might conceal your intentions.
  5. Leaf shutters a fast, don't create much shake or noise.
  6. When DoF and motions blur dictate the shot, amplification (ISO) should take care of the correct exposure.
Up to now, the Samsung NX mini was the camera I expected the least from... however, the camera delivered beyond my wildest expectations, in particular with the 17mm lens.

OMG, why is the NX mini 17mm soooo hard to get?!
Samsung, what is going on? Could be best product of the year.... but only if costumers can buy the product w/o tremendous efforts.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Vintage Lens - Rapid Aplanat f/8-f/64

The vintage 13x18 (cm) camera, I recently bought of ebay seemed to have suffered from moisture a lot.
While the camera is still ok, the plate holder is really warped.
The lens (Rapid Aplanat) was also suffering from the moisture too, having developed severe fungus. Have a look:
front view

rear view
The lens can be taken apart, in the same way as many other larger format lenses: the front and rear groups can be screwed of the lens barrel.
the lens taken apart

one of the groups
The barrel still retains the iris. In my case, the iris was really stiff. Cleansing with several passes of lighter fluid, followed by some petroleum jelly and more lighter fluid, seen to have loosen up the iris sufficiently.
the diaphragm at f/64
Pictures of clean lenses are boring, hence, I decided to not show any.
I wiped down the front and rear surfaces of the front and rear groups with alcohol using fresh a q-tip for each of the surfaces. Said wiping down is to be performed in a meandering fashion, starting from the middle of the lens.

My Rapid Aplanat is now as clean as clean can be. There are no visible traces of the fungus left.

Next step: make a plate (film/paper) holder.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

eBay Bug Bit Again

Yep, I have been staying away from eBay for some time. However, the temptation to check it our was too great, so, I gave it another look.

Since a long time, I have been into alternative methods of photography. It might not be that obvious from this blog, other than me writing about paper negatives.

Today, in eBay, I took yet another step towards old skool picture taking. I won an auction on an old wooden LF camera with a lens, a film holder and a few copying frames. I spent about €220 including shipment... Can't wait to hold the camera in my hands.
I am sure that I will have to do some work on the stuff, the bellows looked pretty dirty (mold?). I figure the wood to get some TLC too. I hope the lens is clear, although, I am prepared to take it apart and refurbish it myself.

This could be my first serious step into the direction of wet plate and tin types.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Going Old Skool, kinda

It has been a while since I posted last on this blog. Having been busy giving classes and clinics, which do in fact take some time to prepare, I was running short on time.

In the course of this blog, you have seen me liking Fuji cameras, e.g. the X100S, but also slowly getting the hang of mirror-less systems. A few weeks ago, I decided to take the plunge and bought a Fuji X-Pro1 'special edition' kit with 2 lenses and a camera case. I figure, the 'special' offer just intends to sell the stock off, so that the X-Pro2, which is announced for fall 2015, wont have a competitor.
Personally, I hesitated, the EVF of the X-Pro1 is considered being not really good, however, the hybrid-viewfinder, which I love so much on the X100S, is brilliant!
One thing speaks for the X-Pro1: the possibility to adapt lenses of various kinds to the camera. This fact finally bought me into the system.

Before even thinking of adapting lenses, one need to obtain adapters... In my case, those where 2 different ones:
  1. M42 - FX
  2. EF - FX
The first option is somewhat obvious. You may know that I own a decent amount of good M42 glass, e.g.:
  • 55mm f/1.4 Cosinon
  • 85mm f/2 Jupiter-9
  • 135mm f/2.8 Pentacon
With the 1.5 crop factor the the APS-C sensor, the Jupiter-9 and the Cosinon make brilliant portrait lenses.

Now you may ask, why EOS EF lenses? Most of the EF lenses are 'by wire', hence, a cheap passive adapter would not be any good. And, I cannot agree more with your doubts. However, I actually own some more wacky lenses for the Canon system, i.e.:
  • LensBabies' system
  • Samyang 24mm T-S lens
all of which are entirely manually controlled lenses.
So, while the M42 adapter takes care of all my prime lenses, the EF adapter enables me to use my creative lenses on the Fuji camera system.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Adjusting the Focus on a MIR-38B 65mm

Lately, I got myself into the KIEV 88 medium format system.
Don't ask me why....
OK, you asked, this is why: 6x6 is a square format, simplifying my photography, I thought I should give square format a chance, removing one more parameter, allowing to focus more on composition.

Right, so, that's what happened: I got this very nice kit with a KIEV 88 and 3 lenses (80mm, 65mm and 45mm).
2 of the lenses were just right. Meaning that one was not OK...
Guess what, that lens that was not OK was the one I planned to use the most... the 65mm wide-angle.

The MIR-38B 65mm did not focus infinity! Actually, it only focused up to 8m. As a secondary problem, the "DoF-preview"-lever was kinda dragging.
When purchasing the kit, I was not informed about this, however, I did not expect to receive a perfect kit either, seen the many reports about the poor quality control done on equipment of such kind.

At closer inspection, it was clear that some previous owner discovered the problem that this lens has (had). Traces of (unprofessional) attempts to open the lens are obvious.

The following image is not mine... I got it from the following link:

On this photo, you do see some screws on the back of the lens, but if your lens is just out of focus range... don't touch any of those!

If the focus range is the problem of your lens, just (carefully) remove the rubber-sleeve from the focus ring... get it out of the way!
You will now find 3 tiny screws on the focus ring. Gently loose those, you don't want to unscrew those. Just loosen those a little.
Now, you want to mount the lens onto your camera.
Slight pumping back and forth action with the focus ring doing a left-right motion, while looking through the view finder, will get you some idea how to further proceed.
Once you figured out what I am talking about, you want to use the split-image indicator to focus a very distant object.
You done that, lock those screws again.

Now you want to unlock the screws of the DoF and focus indicator ring ans adjust the red dot to whatever position your infinity focus is.
Lock down everything.

If the focus position was you only problem (which is very likely), you're done!

With my lens, more things were wrong. The DoF-preview stuck.
Actually, I had to remove the 3 screws you see on the back of the lens. This removes a plastic shield.
Further, 3 long (!) screws of the back of the barrel will need to go out. This will remove the aperture selector mechanism, including a tiny steel ball, which you have to watch out for!
When removing the barrel, you will hear a click, which is the aperture tension mechanism.
In my lens, the preview lever was badly bent (and partly sheared off) on the inside. With a pair of pliers, I carefully bent the lever to a functional position.

I managed to get my MIR-38B 65mm lens into fully functionally shape. I hope that my little howto helps you to deal with your very own MIR lens.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The Ultimate Selfy-Camera for Street Photography

The Samsung NX mini is known and advertised as the ultimate camera for taking selfies. It comes with either a 9mm f/3.5 prime lens or a 9mm to 27mm f/3.5 to f/5.6 zoom lens. At some stages, I believe, there was a double lens kit available.
In order to be complete, the NXmini mount also sports a 17mm f/1.8 portrait lens, which, however, is hard to get and pretty expensive.

In terms of specifications, the NX mini got a 1 inch (13.2mm x 8.8mm; crop factor 2.7),  20 Mpix, BSI CMOS sensor, which delivers pretty noisy images, at least to my taste. The camera also is provided with a 180 degrees tilt-up LCD screen, which is touch sensitive. WiFi is build into the camera. Of course, this higher end camera can record in RAW.

Enough of the specs! What makes me actually using this camera for street photography? Despite the fact that I own a Ricoh GR.

Super Silent!
Not sure how this is put together technically, however, it seems that there are shutters in the NX mini lenses. I doubt that those are leaf shutters, since the flash sync speed is limited to 1s/200. Anyway, those shutters are really silent!

9mm Pancake Lens
This thing is a must have! This lens turns the NX mini into a camera that you actually will carry in your pocket all the time. The lens will only add 12.5mm to the camera during transport. No manipulation required when turning the camera on, contrary to the zoom lens, which as to be manually extended. The 9mm wide angle view of 83.4 degrees, which is equivalent to 24.3mm on 135 film, just like the perfect street lens.
A very peculiar feature of this lens is that is does not come with a lens cap for the front element. Instead, the front element of this lens is protected by a sheet of tempered glass. Honestly, I do hate this fact... and at the same time, I love it!
On the negative: the protective glass introduces a tremendous amount of lens flair.
On the positive: no moving parts...
On the neutral: many Fuji X100 (S/T) shooters, including myself, put a "protective" UV-filter in front of the first element...

Tilt-up Screen
This is a great feature, since the screen can act as a waist-level view-finder, just like in the days of the TLRs. You can take hip-shots which are actually framed, like in the good old days. Right, more modern cameras have that feature, however, this camera got the hinge the very top, allowing it to be carried by grabbing the screen from below, in particular when touch sensitivity is enabled (see next section).

Touch Sensitive Screen
Samsung integrated a "touch shutter" mode, which defines the AF-area and releases the shutter when focus is established. This way, you can safely open the lens up wide, since it is your finger to determine the focus spot, rather than the camera's processor.
Hold the camera by its screen (see above) with one hand and use the other hand to fire the touch shutter.

Full Manual Control
Despite the many auto and selfy modes this camera supports, there are some very interesting features, concerning street photography.
You can adjust the following parameters manually which no risk to accidentally change those:
  • shutter speed
  • aperture
  • ISO
  • focus distance (when using manual focus)

Yep, that is a good thing. The camera can be set to record the RAW detector data and also process a JPEG image which various filters (Samsung calls those "Picture Wizard"). The live view on the LCD will show you the effect of the filter chosen, however, when a picture is taken the original sensor data is recorded alongside the processed image.
Here a tip for you, in particular when you do not (yet) see in B&W: Set the camera to "Classic" (which the B&W mode). Now you can judge how your scene will look like when processed into B&W.

Here are my recommendations for street photography with the ultimate selfy camera.

1. General Common Settings
  • picture wizard: classic (see above)
  • set ISO to auto (I loved if there was auto-film!)
  • set ISO expansion to on (allows for ISO 100 rather than ISO 160)
  • set auto ISO range to 3200 (beyond that noise become terrible)
  • minimum shutter speed 1s/125 (freeze motion)
  • metering: multi (obviously we are snapping)
  • dial in your preferred aperture (f/11 brings in some diffraction)
  • exposure compensation -1 stop (avoid blown out brights)
  • display off: 30 sec (get it dim asap)
  • auto power off: 30 min (keep it on as long as possible)
  • sound: off (obvious)
  • AF lamp: off (obvious)
  • quick view: off (who's chimping?!)

2. Waist-Level Finder Settings
  • enable touch
  • enable touch-shutter
  • focus mode: AF single
With this settings you will be able to shoot with shallow depth of field. However, you need to be visually connected to your camera, which bystanders might notice. On the positive, this will work even when using the zoom lens.

3. Quick Snap Mode Settings
  • focus mode: MF
  • preset focus to "2 dots' width" from infinity (*)
  • set the aperture to f/8
As Weegee said "f/8 and be there". With the camera set up like this, you will be able to snap shots without worrying about the focus. Shots in this mode can be taken in total secrecy due to the very silent shutter. There wont be any missed focus, due to the deep depth of field. Obviously there is not focus hunting.
Note: touch shutter wont work with manual focus!

Have a look:
Wow - Sevillanas! (Samsung NX mini, 9mm pancake @ f/11)
Obviously f/11 was too far stopped down, diffraction is quite obvious in that shot. The hyper focal distance in this shot was set to about 1.5m. Further, I had to crop a good portion of the image, my lens was just too wide angle for that distance!

As a side remark, I danced Sevillanas myself for some years. The sudden exposure to the dance made me thinking of picking it up again.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

How to get Lightroom 5 for cheap

Followers of my blog already know that I got lucky once and won a Samsung NX300 camera, which came with Lightroom 4.

Higher end Samsung cameras seem to come with Lightroom included. Presently, it seems some retailers try to clean out the stock of NX minis. The NX mini actually comes with a Lightroom 5 license.

The NX mini is a really nice camera anyway, in particular with the 9mm prime lens.
The zoom lens seems good too, however, it makes the camera less pocket-able.
The 17mm f/1.8 portrait lens looks very interesting too. Although, 17mm, equivalent to 45mm on 135 film, does not seem to be portrait lens, but rather a "standard", for a pretty steep price.

Anyway, presently, one can obtain a very small camera, that can shoot RAW, with a Lightroom 5 licence, for a pretty low price.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Chasing Gear

This might be somewhat out of the extraordinary for my style of posts...

Lately, I was spending some time and money on ebay. Here are two hot tips for you to get the gear you desire... and get it for cheap!
  • Look in the wrong place!
  • Search with spelling mistakes.
  • Looking for a modern Large Format camera, go to "Photographica"
  • Looking for an old wooden camera, go to "Film Cameras"
  • Looking for a Rondinax daylight tank,  search for "Rodinax"
  • etc.
I guess, you got the idea... just look in the wrong place.
If you want to by a truck for cheap, find one that is listed under sports cars. You bid on it, and nobody will notice, since, in sports cars, nobody cars about trucks. However, once in a while, a seller will post his product in the wrong spot.

By doing so, and being patient, I was able to score a fully functioning Linhof 4x5 camera, including an international back, a 90mm Schneider lens in a Compur shutter, an orange filter, an extra lens board and three film holders for way under €300.-, which I consider a bargain.

Today, folks often do not know what they are selling. I wish you good luck on finding your treasure, like I did lately.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Big Boys Go Modern

As a frequent reader of my blog, you might have noticed that I am into trying/doing the unusual.

Here's my trick to adapt the mirror-less camera with the worst reputation ever (not justified in my mind), the Canon EOS-M to my Plaubel PECO Supra large format view camera.

Before going into any details, let's have a look why anyone would want to do that...
Large format cameras can provide a unique look, with all the possibilities of raise/fall, shift and tilt in many direction.
Today, when you are lucky, large format cameras come really cheap. So do their lenses, in particular when the shutter is not functioning properly anymore.
Here's the good thing, when using a modern digital back, be it a DSLR or a mirror-less camera, the shutter is in the camera, in front of the sensor. (Well in most cases at least, known exception: Pentax Q). So, we don't need a functioning shutter for the following project: Add a digital camera body to a large format camera.

For my approach, this is what you need:

A lens board for a Copal #1 shutter
Copal #1 lens board

M42 macro rings, 1 short, 1 long
M42 macro rings
Adpaters for T2/EOS and EOS/EOS-M
Canon adapters

The short M42 ring mount to the inside of the camera (see photo below), while the longer ring counter-screws on the outside. 

In the recessed lens plate

Camera attached

Front side view
Here's the catch: M42 and T2 are not exactly the same threads. Don't apply any force! Your T2 adapter will be destroyed.
A regular M42/EOS adapter is too short to clear the camera from the recessed lens board.
Here are 3 options:
  1. get another M42 macro-ring
  2. get a non-recessed Copal #1 lens board
  3. fabricate a Copal #1 lens board
It might be easiest to actually make Copal #1 board from a sheet of aluminum...
For now, the setup works just fine, although I do prefer using large format film with my large format cameras.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

The Paper Negative & Gear & Technique

Some posts ago, I was shortly talking about "paper negatives" and here comes what the excitement is all about.
As the name suggests, a paper negative is a negative on paper ... haha ... you might think. But, think again!
The idea is to take photos, i.e. negatives, using photographic paper. Photographic paper itself works very much the same way as photographic film, despite being a lot less sensitive.

First thoughts before jumping into the experience of the paper negative:
  • what kind of camera?
  • what kind of tripod?
  • light-meter?
  • paper?
  • lab equipment?
  • chemicals?

The Camera

I would  suggest to get a folding camera with a film format of around 9cm x 12cm (I will come back to this later).
Those cameras usually come with a 135mm lens and various shutters.
Often the shutters make the difference. Since we are aiming for using the camera with paper, it is important that the slow speeds are working properly. I recommend looking for a "Compur" with self-timer. Those are "fairly" modern and can be fixed with some patience. As I wrote before, make sure the slow speeds are working, unless you're confident you can fix the shutter.
As important as a working shutter is that both parts of the lens (if it is a 2 part lens) are clear. I have seen lenses so fogged up that you cannot see your finger touching the opposite side. (Stay away from those! - no way to fix easily!)
Shutter and lens, the most important items to an old plate camera? No, not all... bellows can be a big deal problem. If the camera is expensive, make sure that the bellow is light-tight! If you can get the camera for cheap, you might accept a leaking bellow, since it can be fixed by either gaffer's tape or replacement.
Right, and now comes the really important part of buying an old plate camera! Make sure that you get some fitting plate film cassettes with it, in good shape that is! Said cassettes are usually made from thin sheet-metal, which can corrode easily! Corroded film cassettes are very hard to restore! Also, finding cassettes for your particular camera can be really difficult.
Hence, the most important part when looking for a folding camera is the presence of cassettes in good condition.

The Tripod

You'll  need a tripod no matter what! Exposure times will be between 1s/10 and several minutes.
This particular tripod needs to be equipped with a 3/8 inch screw, since this was the gauge of the time. It is the gauge of today too, but not for the camera. 3/8 is still used to mount your tripod head onto the tripod itself. However, this requires that you selected one with a removable head.
For my very own camera, I use a MeFOTO RoadTrip.
A camera that does shift, rise and fall, you would usually not need a ball-head. However, if it makes you feel more comfortable, you will need a 1/4 inch to 3/8 inch adapter screw.


Unless you are very sure what you are doing, you should get a decent light-meter. Why am I saying this? A decent light-meter will allow you to get exposure values for ISO 3, which is exactly what you need for paper negatives. Mine is a Gossen Starlite II. 
You might use a general purpose meter and calculate your way down from ISO 100 to ISO 6 or ISO 3, no problem, however, I prefer spot-metering: "expose for the shadows, develop for the lights" (we'll come to this later again). So, is you meter shadows, put them on zone 3 on your Starlite II (which does actually know the zone system!).


Here, the opinions split. Well, not as to the type of paper to use, PE (aka RC) is the call!
And here comes the split:
  • fixed gradation
  • variable gradation
My experiments were inconclusive so far, what a favorite is considered. I used long expired gradation 4 and gradation 3 paper to the same success as very fresh FOMA multi-grade paper.
Most photographers working with paper negatives recommend a #2 gradation (which is "medium soft" photographic paper). Paper, in comparison to film, is considered "hard", i.e. having high contrast.

The following needs to be considered when choosing the paper:

  1. photographic paper is very blue-green sensitive
  2. variable gradation paper provides specific contrast for specific wavelengths of light
Both factors, 1. and 2. point towards the use of filters.

  1. fixed gradation paper with colored filters will lead to a defined sensitivity of the paper negative
  2. variable gradation paper with gradation filters will lead to a defined contrast of the paper negative
The choice is yours!

Pre-flash the Paper

This is a trick to sensitize the paper by homogeneously pre-exposing the paper, shortly before the shot, with an amount of light that does not (substantially) darken the negative. The effect is believed to be temporary only, since the Bromine in the emulsion might re-collect the lost electron.
Many folks pre-flash by means of their enlarger of other contraptions in the darkroom. 
Personally, I figured out a different method:
  • meter a homogeneous light source (e.g. the sky) for zone IX or X
  • de-focus whatever was metered for (e.g. close focus for a cloud)
  • open the dark-slide
  • expose widest open as possible
  • close the dark-slide
Now the paper is pre-flashed and ready to take a picture.
This procedure might give you 1 stop of sensitivity.

Lab Gear

This is real easy, you need to pick some meals from your favorite Chinese take-away, and you'll be supplied with plenty of paper processing trays.
OK, there is some equipment you really need: a safe-light!
Why is that? While film is developed in total darkness, paper can be developed in safe-light lit environment. Meaning, you can actually see for yourself the development process and stop it at your liking! How cool is that?!
That brings us back to the "develop for the lights" part ... well ... you'll see them coming up!


Well, that's a good one. Of course you can use whatever you want or are used to. I am actually using a Caffenol developer. Caffenol is a lot slower than traditional paper developer, so be patient. I once developed a paper negative for 70min. The good thing is, using paper, you can observe the developing process under safe light conditions.
The paper is fixed by a 9+1 Ilford fixer solution.

Some results 

In a previous post, I already was displaying what can be done with an old camera and photographic paper.

At a later point in time, I will add photographs showing the various peaces of equipment I am using personally. Stay tuned!

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Daylight Development Tanks - Agfa Rondix 35 & Caffenol

As mentioned in the introduction to the topic, I purchased, 2nd hand, an Agfa Rondix 35 daylight development tank. On the interwebs, it seems that some folks had questions about the performance of the tank when used with Caffenol.
Eager to test the tank, in particular with caffenol, I loaded an ISO200 C41 film into my Canon QL17 and went out shooting.

You might be familiar with the fact that you should over expose by 2 stops when planning use caffenol on a C41 film. That precisely I did, I exposed the film as if it was ISO50.

The Agfa Rondix holds 200ml of fluid only.
So, the following recipe was used today.
  • 200 ml water
  • 2 tsp washing soda
  • 2+ tsp coffee crystals
  • 1/4 tsp ascorbic acid
The temperature of the mix was more than room temperature, however, I did not measure it. Concerning temperature, I developed films between 18C and 26C at the same timing.

Processing with the Rondix requires constant agitation. Still I kept my timing the same (slightly reduced ascorbic acid in the recipe thought).
  • 17 min Rondix type agitation
  • 3 water changes for washing w/ several cycles (wash should pour out clean)
  • 3 min fixing
  • 5 water changes for washing w/ several cycles
  • 1 last wash w/ a drop of dish washing soup, several cycles
The process resulted in really nice negatives.
Washing according to the Ilford method takes less time in a regular (reversible) tank. However, I am confident that the Rondix provides all one needs for developing film in daylight easily.

Observation: My tank was sold to me with the remark that it might be unused. I believe that, since there was no smell to the tank at all. However, that also means that the seal never has seen any moisture. My tank leaked a little bit at said seal, with a little I mean like 5 drops during the entire processing. Still, I should try to find a solution (new seal) to this issue.

As soon as the film is dry, I will provide some scans.
2 more tanks to test, stay tuned!

Daylight Development Tanks - Introduction

Daylight development tanks, very convenient to film shooters, are not made any longer. That is a real pity, since those are really convenient for developing your (B&W) film w/o the need for a darkroom or even a changing bag.

In today's digital age, that means that one can shoot "full frame" (135 film that is) with moderately price to extremely inexpensive cameras, develop the film (in bright daylight, using coffee) and scan to produce the images, w/o any need for a darkroom whatsoever!

As mentioned above, daylight development tanks are not made any longer and they are more and difficult to obtain on the 2nd hand market.
Personally, I got lucky on 3 daylight development tanks, I am sure that I overpaid, but, at least I can call those mine now (in order of purchase):
  • Jobo 2400
  • Agfa Rondinax 35 U
  • Agfa Rondix 35
Interestingly enough, all those tanks are German brands. I wonder if there were daylight development tanks of different makes too.
Concerning 120 film, I am aware of the existence of the Agfa Rondinax 60.

All three of the above 135 film tanks work on very different principles.
The Jobo 2400 and the Agfa Rondinax use reels, similar to conventional development tanks, on which the film is rolled onto. In contrast thereto, the Agfa Rondix 35 does not employ a reel at all.

In the Jobo 2400 the film is fed onto the reel in a way similar to the any other Jobo or Paterson reels, it is slid in, although, from the inside rather than the outside. At the end of the process, the film is cut from the cartridge. The advantage of the Jobo 2400 is, that it is watertight and can be used as a regular developer tank, also for stand development. Here is a video with a demonstration of the tank.

Loading the film onto the reel of the Agfa Rondinax 35 U is similar to loading a steel-reel. The film is fixed to the inner part of the real and rolled on, slightly bulged. As soon as the film is completely loaded to the reel, a knife needs to be engaged to cut the film next to the cartridge. Due to the fact that the reel is upright in the tank, the reel has to be turned at all times during processing. The Rondinax is not water-tight and therefore has to be kept upright during precessing. Check out this full tutorial.

The Agfa Rondix 35 is the most economical amongst the three, in terms of chemicals' volumes. However, when it comes to washing the film, it is the one that requires the most activity and time. The Rondix does not employ a reel, the film is wound onto itself on a spool. Agfa's advice is to actually roll the film onto the spool when there already is developer in the tank. My advice is to install the film and spool, fill the tank with developer, than close the lid and start winding the film.  The Rondix will keep you busy turning a little crank back and forth for the entire time of the processing. The cartridge will be attached to the film throughout the entire processing, this allows the reversal of the film onto itself. Actually, I use the cartridge to anchor the film for drying. The Rondix is not water-tight and therefore has to be kept upright during precessing. Again, someone else already did a video on the topic.

It is my turn now to use said tanks with alternative developers, e.g. Caffenol, and share the results.