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.

Nikon F (1959 – 1973) and FTn Viewfinder

Up to this point, I’ve only ever used one other Nikon film camera, the Nikon EM. After spending a few weeks talking with friends, I decided it was time to get a proper Nikon SLR. Something a little older. A classic Nikon. That’s when I learned that I really didn’t know a lot about Nikon SLR’s. My friend Maurice Greeson suggested I start with the Nikon F. Before I continue, I’m sure a seasoned Nikonian will correct me if I describe something inaccurately. Please do, no offense taken.

Maurice gave me a Nikon FTn viewfinder/exposure meter with a 50mm Nikkor-S f/1.4 lens. All I had to do was find a Nikon F body, which isn’t hard to do. What is slightly hard to do is find one on eBay in acceptable condition. As I was searching, I’d send Maurice an email and ask, “What about this one? Or, this one? This one?” What I didn’t understand is the F was originally sold with a standard prism viewfinder. The eye-level penta-prism can be interchanged with a waist-level viewfinder, as well as the FTn. The FTn is essentially a viewfinder with a built-in light meter. When changing the lens on the camera, the meter coupling pins must be indexed with the lens. To summarize, the FTn needs to know what aperture values are available on the lens you are mounting. This was something entirely new to me, but it makes sense.

The Nikon F was manufactured from March 1959 to October 1973. The F was known in the 1960’s as the camera used by photo journalists, capturing images from Vietnam, the US exploration of Mt. Everest, and the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo space programs. There were eight types of viewfinder screens available, as well as interchangeable high capacity backs and motor drives. Originally priced at $186 USD (camera and 50mm f/2 lens), that’s about $498 today, the camera attracted both professional and amateur photographers.

According to the serial number on my Nikon F, it was produced between April – July 1970. This camera is a tank! According to kenrockwell.com, the camera and FTn viewfinder alone weigh 1.92 lbs. When you add the lens, it’s easily over 2 pounds. If I were a photojournalist in Vietnam and found myself in a dangerous situation, I think I would have used this camera as a weapon.

The FTn viewfinder and photographic screen both have 100% coverage, giving the photographer a bright viewing area. The camera has a split-image focal screen and a titanium foil focal-plane shutter. The FTn has an ASA range from 6 to 6400, shutter speeds are 1 sec – 1/1000th sec and bulb.

The Nikon F is a classic camera. This camera set the bar for SLR cameras and showed the world that Nikon, and Japanese camera manufactures, were capable of producing exceptional photographic equipment. Special thanks to Maurice Greeson for donating the FTn, lens, and book Nikon F Handbook of Photography (1971 Edition) by Joseph D. Cooper and Joseph C. Abbott.

Camera: Nikon F (with FTn Viewfinder) (1959 – 1984)
Film: Kodak BW400CN
Process: RepliColor SLC
Scanner: Epson Perfection V600 Photo

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Kodak Instamatic 300 & Camerhack 135 to 126 Adapter

The Kodak Instamatic is a camera that I recall from my childhood. My parents and grandparents had them before moving to Kodak 110 cameras in the 1970’s. Kodak’s 126 film was introduced in 1963 and was marketed as an easy-load film cartridge. The film itself is 35mm film, paper backed, with a single sprocket hole per frame to allow each 28 x 28mm shot to advance through the camera. It wasn’t until 1987 that Kodak discontinued the format.

Camerhack in Italy has designed and 3-D prints a 135 (35mm) to 126 film adapter kit. The cartridge allows you to load standard 35mm film into a reusable cartridge so it can be used in a classic Kodak Instamatic, or any other camera that used 126 film. Claudio from Camerhack includes a detailed instruction booklet that guides you through the process. And even better, he’s also created a YouTube video that walks you step-by-step through loading, shooting and re-spooling.

 

Here are my tips for using the Camerhack 135 to 126 FAK:

  • Plan to sacrifice a roll of 35mm film. This will help you practice loading the cartridge in the light. When you’re ready to load your favorite film in the adapter, you’ll be ready to do it in the dark.
  • With your sacrificed roll of film, practice advancing the film in the camera. Instamatic cameras have a needle inside that is tripped by a sprocket hole when the film is advanced. You’ll find that each camera does this a little different. For example, my Kodak Instamatic 300 and Kodak Hawkeye Instamatic advanced very differently. Which leads me to the most important tip.
  • Listen for the click. With my Kodak Instamatic 300, I had to press the shutter, take the shot, press the shutter button down (doesn’t actually open the shutter), advance the film until the shutter advance would CLICK. The key for me was holding the camera up to my ear and listening for that click to know that the film had advanced. The click is the key to success!
  • Following Claudio’s instructions, if you decided to roll the film (in the dark) back into a 35mm cartridge to have it processed at a lab, know that the sprocket holes will get a little chewed up by the camera. This is caused by the needle inside that I mentioned earlier. When you roll the film back into the cartridge, wind it slowly.
  • Only use a 24-exposure roll of 35mm film. Keep in mind that the original number of exposures on 126 film cartridges was 12 to 20. Using a 24-exposure roll should give you 16 to 20 images depending on the spacing between each shot. Using a smaller roll will also prevent the film from scratching when you load the film adapter.

Camera: Kodak Instamatic 300 (1963 – 1966)
Film: Ilford HP5 Plus 400
Process: D-76 (Stock) 7:30 @ 20c
Scanner: Epson Perfection V600 Photo

Kodak Instamatic 300 (1963 - 1966)


Double Exposure Roll Exchange

Back in the Spring, Mike Williams and I were thinking about something new to shoot, and decided to try a double exposure roll exchange. A tag team roll of Ilford HP5 Plus that each of us would shoot on. Mike was first to shoot on the roll with one of his new favorite cameras, the Minolta X-700 (1981). After he was done, he rewound the roll and shipped it from North Carolina to me in Utah. I wanted to shoot the roll with some sprockets, so I used the FPP Plastic Filmtastic Debonair (1988). After I had finished the roll, it was developed by RepliColor in Salt Lake City, and scanned on my Epson V600. The results are interesting. Should Mike and I try another double exposure roll? What do you think? Leave a comment and tell me what film and cameras we should use.


Olympus OM-1 MD (1974 – 1979)

Up until last fall I didn’t own a single Olympus camera. Not by choice. They just never seemed to come up on my camera radar as a need to have item. I found someone in the local online classifieds selling an Olympus OM-1 with 50mm lens for $100. The seller indicated she was searching for some other used gear, so I texted her with some items I was willing to trade. When we met and I inspected the OM-1, I found that the film rewind knob had been broken and a poor attempt to fix it was made. And worse, the shutter advance would move, but nothing moved inside the camera. I went ahead with the trade and took it to a local camera shop and learned that the repair was going to be more than the value of the camera. Kind of a disappointment, but with the attitude of nothing to lose, I decided to take it apart and see if there was anything obvious that I could identify as broken. I’m terrible with repairs. I barely know which end of a screwdriver I should be using. And my repairs generally involve a lot of cussing and frustration. This time I surprised myself and managed to get the film advance to work. I took the film rewind knob to my friend Maurice, who has far more patience and repair knowledge than I ever will. He had the knob back together with new parts in no time at all. After everything was working, I cleaned up the outside of the camera and replaced the light seals on the back.


The Olympus OM-1 was released in 1972 as part of the new OM system. Like the Pentax K-1000 and Canon AE-1, the OM-1 has a large following. It’s an all mechanical camera with a full aperture TTL CdS exposure meter that’s represented by a needle visible in the viewfinder. And this camera has a big, bright, beautiful viewfinder. The viewfinder on the OM-1 has made it one of my favorites. It’s a solid camera body, but also compact and lightweight (675g).

To me, the best feature on the OM-1 is where they placed the shutter speed and aperture settings, the lens! At first, this kind of threw me a curve-ball, but the more I use it, the more I like it. With the camera up to your eye, looking through the viewfinder, naturally your left hand is going to be on the lens for focus. Why not put both shutter speed and aperture settings on the lens? You see that you’re under or over exposed with the meter, so using your left hand that’s already on the lens barrel, you can quickly change your shutter speed or f-stop value. My OM-1 is currently paired with a fast 50mm f/1.6 Olympus Zukio lens.

I’m glad I added the OM-1 to the UTFP fleet of cameras. It really is a fantastic SLR. The viewfinder is better than any Nikon, Canon or Pentax camera I have that was made during the same period. The lens is sharp. Moving the aperture control and shutter speed to the barrel was a brilliant move by Olympus. I like having the switch to the meter on top of the body so I don’t forget to power it off. One thing I don’t like on the OM-1 is the film advance. It has a long swing to it, maybe more so than other SLR’s made in the 1970’s.  And if the film advance on this body had issues, it’s likely going to happen again. However, if another one came up in the local classifieds for the right price, I wouldn’t hesitate to get it as a backup or parts body.

It’s probably a good point to note, though I refer to this camera as an OM-1, it’s really an OM-1 MD. Shortly after the OM-1 was manufactured in 1973, Olympus started to quickly add accessories and lenses for the OM System. One new accessory was a Motor Drive. The updated OM-1 MD had the necessary mounting holes in the bottom of the body where the OM-1 had none, this being the only key difference.

These images were shot on Kodak Ektachrome 100 (Expired 2007). This is some of my favorite slide film and I’m looking forward to shooting some more Ektachrome in the OM-1 when Kodak re-releases it later this year!


Tie Fighter Pinhole Camera

A co-worker recently came back from Disneyland and gave me a plastic Star Wars Tie Fighter popcorn bucket that she had purchased. With Worldwide Pinhole Day coming up on April 30th, I thought how cool it would it be to turn this Tie Fighter into a pinhole camera. Now, it’s not as much of a pinhole camera itself as it is a pinhole camera holder. Deep inside the Tie Fighter is a cardboard Sharan 35mm pinhole camera.

The Tie Fighter comes apart in four pieces. The wings come off the center Command Pod which is held together with 6 screws. After taking the Tie Fighter apart, I cut out the hexagon shape (Solar Ionizer Reactor) on the back for the pinhole. My initial plan was to cannibalize parts from a few other pinhole kits, but then decided it would be easier to mount a camera inside. This way I wouldn’t need to modify the Tie Fighter, but know that a camera from a kit worked.

I assembled a Sharan STD-35e pinhole camera that I had purchased a few years ago. The cardboard is pre-cut, sturdy, and the instructions are easy to follow. To make sure the pinhole of the Sharan lines up with the opening on the back of the Tie Fighter, I placed two round Velcro patches on the left and right-hand sides of the camera. And to make sure that the camera doesn’t move, or pop open, I placed a Velcro strap horizontally along the back of the camera. The Sharan fits snug and perfect inside the Tie Fighter, ready to take on any member of the Rebel fleet!

To trigger the shutter, I drilled a small hole in the top of the Tie Fighter and attached a paperclip to the cardboard shutter that covers the pinhole. With the top hatch of the pod closed, the paperclip can be pulled up to let the light pass through the pinhole and expose the film. Because the camera is slightly recessed inside the Tie Fighter, the hexagon shape should create the similar shape on the exposed images adding to the uniqueness.

Advancing the film is done by opening the top hatch of the pod and turning the take-up spool counterclockwise. Loading the film and camera into the pod is not easy. The six screws must be removed so the pod can be taken apart into two pieces. The camera can then be removed to load film, rewind film, remove film, etc.

“Oh, I’m afraid the Tie Fighter Pinhole will be quite operational for Worldwide Pinhole Day.”

Technical Specs:

  • First Order Special Forces Tie Fighter
  • Advance Hyperdrive Engine
  • 2 x Laser Cannons – Turret – Warhead Launcher
  • Two Seat – Pilot & Gunner
  • Pinhole – .16mm
  • Focal Length – 20mm
  • F-Stop – f/130
  • Film Type – 135 (35mm)

2016 Laundromat Project

In late 2015 I decided to do a small personal photographic project for the upcoming year. One subject, one camera, one roll of film. I selected the Pentax Spotmatic and a roll of Kodak Tri-X 400.

Pentax Spotmatic (1964 - 1973)

The subject was to photograph different laundromats in Northern Utah. The locations I selected were: Terrace Laundry in Washington Terrace, Wash Tub in North Ogden, 4th Street Laundromat in Salt Lake City and Hart’s in Roy. The purpose of a personal photographic project is to take you out of your element, try something different, and challenge yourself.

You get a lot of strange looks, questions and questionable looks when you show up at a laundromat with an old camera, not laundry. So, how was this experience? I follow photographers on Twitter that make entire books or zines out of this type of photography. To me, it just felt lazy. I discovered that this type of photography is not my style. If I were to do it again, I would photograph the people in the laundromat, not machines and signs. I learned something about myself, and used this roll to practice developing film at home. Process: D-76 (Stock) 6:45 Min @ 20° C, scanned with an Epson Perfection V600 Photo.

[2016_01_31] Terrace Laundry - Washington Terrace, Utah

[2016_01_31] Terrace Laundry – Washington Terrace, Utah

[2016_01_31] Terrace Laundry - Washington Terrace, Utah

[2016_01_31] Terrace Laundry – Washington Terrace, Utah

[2016_01_31] Terrace Laundry - Washington Terrace, Utah

[2016_01_31] Terrace Laundry – Washington Terrace, Utah

The idea was to photographic inside various laundromat's in Northern Utah.

[2016_01_31] Terrace Laundry – Washington Terrace, Utah

[2016_03_25] Wash Tub - North Ogden, Utah

[2016_03_25] Wash Tub – North Ogden, Utah

[2016_03_25] Wash Tub - North Ogden, Utah

[2016_03_25] Wash Tub – North Ogden, Utah

[2016_03_25] Wash Tub - North Ogden, Utah

[2016_03_25] Wash Tub – North Ogden, Utah

[2016_03_25] Wash Tub - North Ogden, Utah

[2016_03_25] Wash Tub – North Ogden, Utah

[2016_04_29] 4th Street Laundromat - Salt Lake City, Utah

[2016_04_29] 4th Street Laundromat – Salt Lake City, Utah

[2016_04_29] 4th Street Laundromat - Salt Lake City, Utah

[2016_04_29] 4th Street Laundromat – Salt Lake City, Utah

[2016_04_29] 4th Street Laundromat - Salt Lake City, Utah

[2016_04_29] 4th Street Laundromat – Salt Lake City, Utah

[2016_04_29] 4th Street Laundromat - Salt Lake City, Utah

[2016_04_29] 4th Street Laundromat – Salt Lake City, Utah

[2016_07_10] Hart's - Roy, Utah

[2016_07_10] Hart’s – Roy, Utah

[2016_07_10] Hart's - Roy, Utah

[2016_07_10] Hart’s – Roy, Utah

[2016_07_10] Hart's - Roy, Utah

[2016_07_10] Hart’s – Roy, Utah

[2016_07_10] Hart's - Roy, Utah

[2016_07_10] Hart’s – Roy, Utah


Expired Film Day 2017

Expired Film Day 2017

Expired Film Day 2017

Camera: Graflex Crown Graphic Pacemaker (1955)
Film: Kodak 4×5 T-Max 400 (Expired April 2002)
Process: D-76 (Stock) 6:45 Min @ 20°C
Scanner: Epson Perfection V600 Photo

Old Warehouse - Salt Lake City, Utah

Old Warehouse – Salt Lake City, Utah

Salt Lake City Public Safety Building - Salt Lake City, Utah

Salt Lake City Public Safety Building – Salt Lake City, Utah

Salt Lake City Public Safety Building - Salt Lake City, Utah

Salt Lake City Public Safety Building – Salt Lake City, Utah

Salt Lake City Public Library - Salt Lake City, Utah

Salt Lake City Public Library – Salt Lake City, Utah

Salt Lake City Public Library - Salt Lake City, Utah

Salt Lake City Public Library – Salt Lake City, Utah

Salt Lake City Public Library - Salt Lake City, Utah

Salt Lake City Public Library – Salt Lake City, Utah


Pacemaker Crown Graphic (1955)

You know the saying, “the first drug is always free?” That’s how my friend Maurice convinced me to experiment with large format. Late last year, he asked me if I would be interested in trying one of his Graflex cameras. He even sweetened the deal by loading some Arista 4×5 film into the film holders, and volunteered to develop them. On a Saturday morning, he gave me hands-on lesson and answered all my questions.

Maurice & Shaun - Photo by Charles Trentelman

Maurice & Shaun – Photo by Charles Trentelman

The Pacemaker Crown Graphic was manufactured from 1947 to 1973 by Graflex Inc. Made of mahogany wood and metal, the Pacemaker has a side-mounted rangefinder focus, but does not have a focal plane shutter like nearly identical Pacemaker Speed Graphic. To give the camera access to a variety of wide-angle lenses, and to reduce the overall weight, it was made without a focal plane shutter. My Pacemaker was manufactured in 1955 and features a lens board with a 135mm Graflex Optar lens, f/4.7 – 32, and shutter speeds 1/400 – 1 sec.

Photographers often describe their satisfaction of shooting film as: it allows me to slow down. Using a large format camera, like a Graflex, takes that same notion and multiplies it. Everything from setting the camera up to the final click of the shutter is a deliberate, leisurely, and enjoyable process.

After shooting the film that Maurice had loaded, I returned the camera and film holders to him. He told me that he was likely going to sell the Pacemaker and offered it to me. A few days later, I returned and bought the camera from him. Maurice also threw in the book,  Graphic Graflex Photography: The Master Book for the Larger Camera (1943), 8 film holders, and a Polaroid 100-series Packfilm holder. Adding to my new large format arsenal, I bought the SP-445 Compact 4×5 Film Processing System, along with New55 Atomic-X and Kodak T-Max film. For me, developing black and white 4×5 sheets are easier than 35 or 120. And it’s exciting to see a large 4×5 negative with so much detail. Compared to a digital camera sensor, a single sheet of 4×5 film provides more “data” than you can possibly imagine. Learning with some additional practice, I plan to create more 4×5 images with better composition and depth of field. However, I am happy with my first attempt with large format photography.


Film Christmas Tree

At Christmas time, we all have family traditions. One of our family traditions is to change our Christmas tree ornaments every other year. For 25 years, we’ve had twelve different Christmas trees. Some have been conventional with colored bulbs, others featured candy canes and gingerbread men. Most of them have been fun for our kids, and they always center around a theme. Some of my favorites have been: Blue’s Clues, Bug’s Life, and PEZ dispensers.

For our 2016 & 2017 Christmas tree, I contacted the crew at Old School Photo Lab in Dover, New Hampshire. They shipped me over one-hundred empty 35mm film cartridges and 120 film backing paper from about 70 rolls. The backing paper is used as garland and wraps around the tree. It was also used in the place of ribbon on the gifts. The branches are decorated with 35mm cartridges of various brands and speeds. The tree is topped with a Kodak Starflash Camera from my friend Maurice.

Have a Merry Christmas and a Filmtastic New Year!


Canon New Sure Shot

The third version of Canon’s Sure Shot made in in 1983 ($150 USD) was sold as the New Sure Shot in the United States, AF35MII in Europe, and the Autoboy 2 in Japan. The New Sure Shot is a simple point and shoot 35mm camera featuring a 38mm f/2.8 – 16 lens. The camera focuses (near, medium, far) with a triangulation system using a near-infrared beam for autofocusing. Pressing the shutter button down halfway accomplishes prefocus. Powered by two AA batteries, the film advance is automatic and the exposure is controlled electronically. To test the camera, I used some expired Kodak Gold 200. The film really achieves that expired look in the blue tones.Canon New Sure Shot (AF35M II) (1983)