Author Archives: Shaun Nelson

About Shaun Nelson

Learning to shoot analog in a digital world. UtahFilmPhotography.com is dedicated to sharing information, sharing experience and sharing knowledge about film photography and vintage cameras.

Cycling with an Advanced Compact Film Camera

I mentioned back in April that one life changing event that occurred to me in 2019 was weight loss surgery. In the time leading up to the surgery, I told myself that I was going to get back into cycling once I had lost some weight and was comfortable getting back on a bike. I am happy to say that I have done that, but now riding longer distances and taking steeper climbs than I did 30 years ago. I brought my Specialized Hotrock (2002) mountain bike out of retirement, and then purchased two new 2021 Trek Dual Sport 2 hybrids for me and my wife.

Shaun in Yellowstone National Park

Over the 4th of July weekend, my wife and I spent two days riding through Yellowstone National Park. I cannot think of a more beautiful place to ride than Yellowstone. One day I rode from West Thumb to Old Faithful. It’s not a long ride, but it takes you up and over the Continental Divide, twice. It’s a steep climb, but again, beautiful.

Before the trip, I committed to take a film camera with me on my bike. The choice was easy, the Olympus XA. A simple advanced compact camera, lightweight, with some advance features. The challenge was where to store the camera. I purchased a Roswheel triangle frame pack to store the camera, my iPhone, and wallet while riding. Below are a few pictures I took along the ride. To see some additional photos from the roll, check my Instagram @shaunnelson.

Camera: Olympus XA (1979)
Film: Kodak Kodacolor 200 (expired)
Process: TheDarkroom.com

 

 


Even More Photos with the Yashica No. 2 Close-up Lenses

Okay, one last post using the Close-Up Lenses No. 2 on the Yashica Mat-124 G and then I’ll move on to something else. This time I heated the CineStill Df96 Monobath up 32° C, pushing it one stop. Something I’ve not tried before and I’m happy with the results.

Camera: Yashica Mat-124 G (1970 – 1986) with
Yashica No. 2 Close-up Lenses.
Film: Kosmo Foto Mono 100
Process: CineStill Df96 Monobath 3 Mins @ 32° C (Push +1)
Scanned: Epson V700 Photo

 

 


Abandoned 280ZX

A few miles away from my house an abandoned Datsun 280ZX has been sitting in a private parking lot for several years. Each time I drove past it, I thought how I should stop and capture some images of the car as it slowly became surrounded by weeds and the exterior became more weathered with each passing season. I’m glad I stopped to photograph the car because the next week, it was gone.

Camera: Yashica Mat-124 G (1970 – 1986)
Film: Ultrafine Extreme 400
Process: CineStill Df96 Monobath
Scanned: Epson V700 Photo

 

 


More Photos with Yashica Close-Up Lenses No. 2

Here are some additional photos with the Close-Up Lenses No. 2 on the Yashica Mat-124 G. These were shot on expired Kodak Tri-X. The resulting images have a lot of grain.

Camera: Yashica Mat-124 G (1970 – 1986)
with Yashica No. 2 Close-up Lenses.
Film: Kodak Tri-X (Exp 6/2003).
Process: CineStill Df96 Monobath 3 Mins @ 26° C.
Scanned: Epson V700 Photo

 

 


Yashica Mat-124 G Close-Up Lenses No. 2

Since having my Yashica Mat-124 G CLA’d by Mark Hama, I’ve used it more often. And recently found another film photographer on Facebook that was selling a set of close-up lenses for Yashica TLR’s. The set of lenses includes one that goes on taking lens, and the other on the viewing lens. According to yashicatlr.com, Yashica made close-up lenses that were both slip-on and bayonet mount. And two separate sets of close-up lenses were made for the Mat-124 G: No. 1 allows focusing as close as 44-61cm, and No.2 allows focusing as close as 36-45cm.

The first attempt I made at using these lenses was back in the spring when my wife and I went to our local nursery to buy vegetable plants for the garden. I thought using these close-up lenses in the greenhouses would make some interesting photos. The photos were all taken at f/3.5, hand-held. I think I could have done better with a tripod.

Camera: Yashica Mat-124 G (1970 – 1986) with
Yashica No. 2 Close-up Lenses.
Film: Ultrafine Exteme 100
Process: CineStill Df96 Monobath 3 Mins @ 26° C
Scanned: Epson V600 Photo

 

 


Mercury II Film Test – A Tale of One City

This week we’re featuring local photographer Bob Grant and his review of the Mercury II camera. Bob found Utah Film Photography a few years ago and we’ve met up for a few photowalks. With a background in engineering, Bob loves the technical details, mechanics, and operation behind film photography. He admits his artistic and technical interests go hand-in-hand, and they tend to compliment each other.

Well, this certainly isn’t the best of times. And pandemic concerns recently prevented me from exploring any city other than my own.

And for anyone who enjoys travel photography, an unexpected 10-week long stay at home spells out “missed opportunities” in bold letters.

But photography continues. I’ve added greatly to my old film camera collection within the past two years, and I have a number of gems that until 10 weeks ago I had not yet put any film in. So I suddenly saw a golden opportunity to correct that by shooting my first rolls in my Contax IIIA, Voigtlander Bessamatic, Yashica D, Yashica-Mat, plus Kodak No. 2 Hawk-eye and Rexoette box cameras. Hoping for interesting photos, or at least ones that exposed the strengths and weakness of each camera, I decided to play tourist on my daily walks of 2 to 5 miles in my neighborhood. As time progressed, novel subjects, lighting, and camera angles became harder to find in such a small radius from home. But playing tourist in my own neighborhood proved to be a fun challenge to my creativity.

In retrospect, selecting my recently acquired Mercury II with an 35mm F2.7 Tricor lens for its tour of duty at this time may have pushed this challenge a tad too far into the deep end of the pool. Because the Mercury II is my first half-frame 35mm camera, and I hadn’t fully anticipated how long it might take me to shoot the full complement of 65 images within walking distance of my home.

Briefly, the Mercury II is a uniquely shaped post-war American 35mm camera.

Mercury II Film Test

Anyone interested in the technical details can easily find it on the internet search for “Mercury II camera”. Mike Eckman Dot Com gives a much better description than I possibly can.

Amazing things about this camera include:
The bump on the top houses a rotating disc that serves as the focal plane shutter. At each shutter speed, from 1/20 to 1/1000, the disc rotates at the same speed, and always emits the same lazy whirl. The exposure is varied by changing the size of the pie-shaped opening formed by the two over-lapping “half discs”. It is unquestionably the most accurate mechanical shutter in my camera collection, and is as precise throughout its whole range as I can measure with my simple shutter tester, challenging some of my electronic shutters.

Mercury II Film Test

The exterior metal surfaces were not plated. They now have an intriguing patina. Okay, it’s actually a tarnish that you can see in the first photo. But the tarnish shows graphically where the operators’ fingers have smoothened the metal’s surface finish and additionally darkened it over the years. Judging by this, this camera has apparently seen heavy use, yet maintained its accuracy. I guess I can’t rule out that the original owner had excessively hard, dry and abrasive skin.

The owner’s manual has a description of the exposure calculator, on the camera’s back, but it is so complex that I couldn’t find any reason to read past the first paragraph or two, when “Sunny 16” answered my needs. A fringe benefit of living in Utah: substantial sun compared to where this camera was designed – NYC.

Mercury II Film TestLeft to right in the foreground above are:

  • The extinction light meter that came with the camera (useless, maybe due to darkening with age);
  • Saymont rangefinder attachment, unrelated to this camera but a useful accessory; This is a viewfinder, not a rangefinder. Distance is by guesstimate, but I happen to have this era-appropriate accessory rangefinder, which I also found fun to use.
  • Kodalux light meter, obviously unrelated and with limited functionality, mostly to confirm “Sunny 16”.

Annoying things about this camera:
The half-frame images are pretty small, magnifying any image imperfection and requiring manual framing of each image when using my Epson V550 film scanner. When the camera is horizontal, the image is in portrait orientation. It is easy to grip and hold vertically for a landscape, so I didn’t find this to be a problem. Until I saw the photos. Many of them were skewed. I obviously had a hard time holding the camera level, in either configuration. Will you let me blame the tiny viewfinder, which is vignetted for anyone wearing glasses? I actually can’t get my eyeball close enough to see the edges of the viewing frame.

It takes 4 repeated twisting motions for me to wind the film and cock the shutter. If this was a full-frame camera, I’d have to pre-schedule each film advance on my monthly calendar.

The film advance on my camera has aged a lot faster than the shutter. One film sprocket hole was torn mid-roll, several exposures slightly overlapped, and the last 8 to 10 exposures were blank, with one frame showing multiple exposures despite the expected tension signaling that I had properly reached the end of the roll, and the shutter appeared to have never missed a beat. I respect any camera that presents me with a mysterious failing such as this. I wonder now if the advance knob stops when it reaches frame number 65, even if the film stopped advancing sooner. I’d have to wind it 65 times just to find out. 65 x 4 =260 twists. Never mind.

The top of the leather case folds up, over, and back toward the user, preventing them from getting an eye within 4 inches of the viewfinder. Perhaps it is because the leather is now so hard and stiff that it won’t drop out of the way. I decided to just remove the case while I had film in the camera – the first time I’ve ever felt obliged to operate any camera without its case.

So – how good are the pictures? First let me explain. I find it hard to believe, but I checked the math, and I really did make my first photographic equipment purchase (Crown Graphic 4×5 and Omega DII enlarger) 49 years ago, while still in high school. I have a fair amount of amateur darkroom experience. However, now my favorite way to view my photos is using my 4K TV, so now my old amateurish ways of judging analog input/analog output image quality no longer apply to me, and keep in mind that my new amateurish analog input/digital output methods do not always satisfy me, and might not appeal to you, either. This has always been only one of several hobbies that are enjoyable for my own entertainment, but I’ve never sought to totally master.

I shot Ilford FP4+ with standard developing time. I used no filters – none of mine fit this small lens. Most outdoor shots were handheld, usually taken at 1/100 and F16 or F8.

These subjects aren’t particularly interesting, but were primarily selected to judge the camera’s capabilities. One, but only one, image on this roll gave me the image definition evocative of my what I love about my Zeiss and Voigtlander cameras from the ’50’s and ’60’s. At least it wouldn’t stand out if grouped with those images – when viewed on my TV. All of the others would fall short.

Mercury II Film Test

So I know beautiful photos are somewhere within this camera’s capabilities, but I couldn’t find all too many with my first roll of film. The small image size is a big disadvantage. Every speck of dust or blemish is twice as big as full-frame 35mm. All of these images are scanned at 3200 dpi (but downsized for this publication) with Epson’s lowest USM setting, and no post processing and no digital dust removal. Kinda raw.

Can anyone identify what caused the circled flaws in this image, and how to avoid them? Other than, of course, not shooting a 3/4″ x 1″ negatives while a 4″ x 5″ camera sits unused at home. 🙂 I don’t remember it ever having been a problem for me before, so I guess it is a processing flaw that has previously gone un-noticed with less magnification. You will see more examples in other shots.

Mercury II Film Test

Middle-lane Social Distancing for Teens

Mercury II Film Test

Outer-lane Social Distancing for Adults

Mercury II Film Test

Stay-at-Home Social Distancing for Boomers

Mercury II Film Test

These cameras are said to have a good depth of field due to their small images, so I took this picture to get a sense of it.

Mercury II Film Test

The camera can focus as close as 1′ 6″. This was taken a little further than that, but as close as I could get due to standing in a ditch.

Mercury II Film Test

Tennis Court Shadow

Mercury II Film Test

Sno-Cat

Mercury II Film Test

I cannot quite count the number of plies in the rubber belt of this cat-track, which I interpret as pretty good.

Mercury II Film Test

Snuggle Bench During a Pandemic However, nothing looks very sharp.

Mercury II Film Test

I’ve started shooting very rudimentary resolution test shots of all my cameras, with similar lighting and always tripod mounted. My methodology still has many flaws, but this suggests to me that this lens is average – comparable to my Canon 50mm FD, but better than my Canon zoom lenses with FD mounts.

Mercury II Film Test

 

 


Yashica Mat-124 G CLA

I recently sent my Yashica Mat-124 G off to Mr. Mark Hama in Georgia (USA) for a CLA (clean, lubricate, adjust). Mark is known for working on the team that built the Mat-124 G at Yashica’s factory in Japan. For the past 30 years he’s been repairing cameras from his home. If you recall, he also repaired my Yashica 44 last year.

I was having issues with the shutter button. For whatever reason it would not click after advancing the film. For the past two weeks I’ve been running a few rolls of 120 film through the camera to ensure that it’s working correctly. I’m happy to report that it works as good as new. I’m not sure what I did wrong with the negatives, but they’re showing some banding at the top. Possible light piping? If you have some ideas, please leave me a comment.

Camera: Yashica Mat-124 G (1970 – 1986)
Film: Ilford HP5+ 400 (Exp 8/2018)
Process: Kodak HC-110 (1+31) 5 Min @ 68°
Scanned: Epson V700 Photo

 

 


M3 & P30 Alpha

About a year after I purchased the M3, a good friend jokingly chastised me that I needed a proper Leica lens for a Lecia body. My half-joking response to him was, “What do you have for sale?” And that’s when I purchased 50mm Summarit f/1.5 lens from him. While it’s not known as the best piece of Leica glass, I still stand by a quote from photographer Scott Bourne, “Ninety-nine percent of the lenses are better than 100% of photographers.” While it would be nice to have a Summicron f/2 Rigid that was made around the same period as the M3. I think my budget is going to stick with the Summarit for now.

Leica M3 (1959) single stroke with Leica Meter MR and 50mm Summarit f/1.5 lens

The following images were shot on my second roll of Ferrania P30 Alpha. This film that was created by Ferrania a few years back to fund new film and appease Kickstarter backers. You can read my original post about it here. Again, this film has a lot of contrast that can lend itself to specific subjects.

Camera: Leica M3 (1959) single stroke with Leica Meter MR and 50mm Summarit f/1.5 lens
Film: Ferrania P30 Alpha ISO 80
Process: Kodak HC-110 (1+31) 5 Min @ 68°
Scanned: Epson V700 Photo

 

 


Abandoned?

No, the Utah Film Photography website is not abandoned. During the final months of 2019, I had a few of what I would label “positive life changing events.” And then Covid-19, stay-at-home and social distancing guidelines occurred. That’s why the site has gone so long without regular updates. Plus, I’ve delayed writing this post because I hate talking about myself.

Life changing events? One occurred in September when I had gastric bypass surgery. It’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, but it is the best thing I’ve ever done for my health. I have lost 100+ lbs. I look and feel fantastic! And feeling great has changed my approach to photography because I have the energy to get out and shoot. It’s interesting how personal issues, like weight and food in my case, can hold creativity hostage.

This year is the fifth birthday of Utah Film Photography. A much-needed facelift is needed to the website. In the coming months, you can expect some changes to the look of the site. While some people are referring to 2020 as a dumpster fire, I’m staying positive. There are so many cameras and films that I want to experience this year. Stay tuned, stay safe, and go take some cool film photos!

— Shaun @ UtahFilmPhotography.com

 


Yashica 44 LM (1958 – 1962)

Soon after I sent my Yashica 44 off to Mark Hama for repairs, I purchased this Yashica 44 LM. This camera was the last of Yashica’s 44 line of TLR’s that used 127 film.

Manufactured from 1958 to 1962, the Yashica 44 LM is nearly identical to the 44 and 44A. The main difference being the LM has a selenium light meter. Both the viewing and taking lenses are multi-coated, 4-element, 60mm f/3.5 Yashinon. Like the 44, the 44 LM has a Copal SV leaf shutter with speeds from 1 to 1/500th of a second and bulb. Mounted above the viewing lens is a semi-coupled selenium-cell light meter.

Aside from the light meter and the upgraded Yashinon lens with bayonet mount for lens attachments, the LM isn’t as good looking in my opinion as the 44 with the film advance crank and the gray color scheme. The selenium meter on this camera works and was accurate. I had no problems with exposure. I did have some light piping on my cut roll of 127 film. A roll of 120 film is both longer and thicker than original 127 film. When 120 is cut and rolled on to a 127 spool, there’s always a chance to expose the edges to light when loading and unloading the film from the camera. I fat-fingered the film while trying to load it. You can see the results of those shots below. And like the original 44, the LM is a quality-built camera. While the LM has a light meter, and that’s a useful feature, I still think the original 44 is my favorite 127 camera.

Clinton Days Car Show 2019
Camera: Yashica 44 LM (1958 – 1962)
Film: Rera Pan 100
Process: FPP-110 (1+31) 7 Min @ 68°
Scanner: Epson V600 Photo

Clinton Days Car Show 2019
Camera: Yashica 44 LM (1958 – 1962)
Film: Ultrafine Extreme 100
Process: FPP-110 (1+31) 7 Min @ 68°
Scanner: Epson V600 Photo