Category Archives: Black & White

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

 

 


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

 

 


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

 

 


Haunted? Stricker Ranch – Hansen, Idaho

In 2019, I’ve tried to spend more time shooting film than writing. I’m finding myself returning to some of my favorite cameras and film stocks. This post is more about the destination and the subject than the gear or film. I thought it was worth sharing.

Over Memorial Day weekend, my family took a short road trip to Twin Falls, Idaho. Our first destination was Stricker Ranch/Rock Creek Station, in Hansen Idaho. I learned about the Stricker Ranch while looking for some ghost towns to visit that were within a few hours drive from home. Stricker Ranch, also known as the Rock Creek Station, was built along the Oregon Trail in 1865 and was one of the stops west of Fort Hall, Idaho. It was also home to the Overland mail stage route and the Kelton Freight Road. The remains of the ranch, or town, are currently being preserved by the Idaho State Historical Society and non-profit Friends of Stricker, Inc. The ranch and buildings are rumored to be haunted by friendly spirits. You’ll need to visit and decide for yourself. Many of ranch structures have been lost to time, but the original store, wet cellar, and Stricker home remain standing. The buildings and Stricker home are only open on Sundays for a few hours, but self-guided tours via markers and maps onsite are available year-round. The Stricker home is surrounded by beautiful shade trees and landscaping, making it a perfect place for a picnic, or séance, whatever you decide.

Camera: Leica M3 (1959)
Film: Ilford HP5 Plus 400
Process: RepliColor, SLC
Scanner: Epson V600 Photo

 

 


Kosmo Foto Mono 120

Yashica Mat-124 G

When Stephen Dowling at Kosmo Foto announced the new Kosmo Foto Mono 120, I rushed to preorder several rolls. Why? Kosmo Foto Mono has been one of my favorite films. You can read my original review here, and view more photos here.

Kosmo Foto Mono is a fantastic ISO 100 black and white film. Just like the 135-36, the 120 medium format version has a nice balance of grain and contrast. I’m really looking forward to shooting more in my Yashica Mat-124 G.

Over Memorial Day weekend, we took a drive north to Twin Falls, Idaho. It was a stormy, cloudy, rainy day. However, each time we stepped out of the car, it stopped raining long enough for us to enjoy ourselves. Our first stop was Stricker Ranch in Hansen, Idaho. This ranch and homestead date back to 1865 and was one of the stops along the Oregon Trail. Then we drove on to Shoshone Falls outside of Twin Falls. With plenty of winter snow and spring rain, the roaring waterfall was incredible. I was able to created a panoramic shot of the falls with two 6×6 shots, stitching them in Lightroom. And then we stopped to walk along the Perrine Bridge in Twin Falls.

Camera: Yashica Mat-124 G
Film: Kosmo Foto Mono 120
Process: RepliColor, SLC
Scanner: Epson V600 Photo

 


Film Photography Project Super Monobath BW Developer

When New55 released a monobath a few years ago, I was eager to give it a try. What could be easier? A single solution to develop black and white film and no need to mix chemistry. After successfully developing a few rolls of 120 film, I was happy. That changed when I tried to develop 35mm film. I found that each roll had bromide drag. What is bromide drag? It occurs when the silver bromide overpowers the developer, leaving marks from the edges of the film sprockets, bleeding into the center of the film. When doing some research online, I found no real consensus. One person stated the temperature of the monobath needed to be exactly the right temperature, another said that agitation needed to happen at certain points in developing, and another person said that a prewash on the film was necessary.

Bromide drag on a photo taken with the Ondu 135 Pocket Pinhole and developed in FPP Super Monobath

Bromide drag on a photo taken with the Ondu 135 Pocket Pinhole and developed in FPP Super Monobath

Fast forward to 2018, the Film Photography Project and CineStill released liquid monobaths. I thought I should give it another try. I purchased some of the FPP Super Monobath and developed the first three rolls I shot in my Ondu pinhole camera. The 1-liter bottle from the FPP contains no instructions other than: 3.5 minutes at 75° F. After developing, the negatives looked good until I scanned them. And just like my experience before, bromide drag. I was disappointed, so I contacted Mike Raso at the FPP. He quickly responded with: agitation. And to be certain, he included Leslie Lazenby in on the email. Her response: agitation. So why wasn’t this printed on the label? Why wasn’t a small insert not included with the bottle? It wasn’t until recently that FPP updated the information about the monobath on their website. It now includes a list of recommendations and tips. What have I learned? Monobath is not a stand developer. It does need agitation like conventional developers. I found in subsequent rolls that this worked the best:

  • Heat the monobath and some distilled water to 75° F with the FPP Heater Helper.
  • Prewash the film for 1 minute with distilled water, dump distilled water.
  • Pour in the monobath and agitate (invert) for the first 30 seconds, and then 5 seconds every minute.
  • Pour monobath back in bottle. It can be used for about 3 – 6 months.
  • Rinse film with FPP Archival Wash for 1-minute. Saves 10 – 20 minutes of wasting water.
  • Pour archival wash back in bottle.
  • Add diluted Kodak Photo-Flo for 1-minute, dump when finished.

Camera & Lens: Leica M3 (1959) – 50mm f/1.5 Summarit
Film: Ilford HP5+
Process: FPP Super MonoBath BW Developer 3.5 Min @ 75° F
Scanner: Epson V600 Photo

FPP Super Monobath Pros:

  • It’s odorless. When I was using the New55 monobath, I had to open the window because it smelled like household cleaning ammonia. The FPP monobath has no smell.
  • It’s quick and easy to use. There is no need to dilute or mix chemicals. In just a few short steps, your negatives are developed.

FPP Super Monobath Cons:

  • It doesn’t work the same with all black and white films. Kodak TMax needs longer developing times. And films over ISO 400 are not recommended.
  • Doesn’t give you the same flexibility as conventional developing, i.e. pushing and pulling. Increasing temperature can give you a small boost in density.

Would I recommend trying a monobath? Yes. It’s a guaranteed gateway drug for developing film. For me, using a monobath gave me the confidence to move to more conventional developing. Mixing, diluting, and using multiple chemicals can be intimidating if you’ve never done it before. A monobath is a great starting point for anyone that wants to develop easy, quickly on a small budget.

 


Kosmo Foto Mono 100

One final roll from the the Canon 10S. This time using one of my favorite black and white film film stocks, Kosmo Foto Mono 100.

Camera: Canon EOS 10S (1990)
Lens: Canon 24-105mm f/4 IS USM L-Series
Film: Kosmo Foto Mono 100
Process: Kodak D76 (1+1) 10:00 Min @ 20°


Canon EOS 10S (1990)

Last May, Scott Smith was at the Utah Film Photography Worldwide Headquarters (my house) to develop some 4×5 sheets he’d shot with his newly acquired Graflex. We used a tank that would hold ten sheets and required over a half gallon of chemistry. I’m not doing that again. I’ll stick with 4 sheets in the Stearman Press SP445. Anyway, I digress. Scott showed me a Canon EOS 10S that he had purchased earlier that day. Both Scott and I have owned Canon digital gear over that past decade. He has sold most of his Canon gear but kept a Canon 24-105mm f/4 IS USM L-Series lens. Because the EF lens mounts were the same, he paired this lens with the 10S. While Scott developed film, I played with the camera. Autofocus and image stabilization worked as quickly as it would on my Canon 6D and I was impressed. The next day, I went hunting on eBay and bought a mint Canon 10S for $10, including shipping. In the last six months, the 10S has become one of my favorite cameras, and the closest I want my film and digital worlds to get to another.

Canon EOS 10s

Introduced in March 1990 by Canon, the 10S (10QD in Japan, 10 in Europe) is an autofocus 35mm SLR camera. The camera features a Multi-BASIS AF sensor. This sensor gives the photographer three autofocus viewpoints. Many of the design elements and features of the 10S still remain on Canon’s DSLR cameras. For example, the command dial is nearly the same: automatic and creative modes, P Program, TV Shutter Priority, AV Aperture Priority, M Manual. The LCD on the top displays your selection of focus modes like one shot, AI Servo, AI Focus. Shutter speeds are 30 sec to 1/4000th sec, bulb and flash sync up to 1/125th sec. Film speeds can range from ISO 6 to 6400. With the meter and exposure controls, the camera has 15 custom functions from autobracketing to multiple exposure. The automatic advance allows you to shoot 5 fps in One-Shot Autofocus and Manual modes, or 3 fps in AI Servo mode.

One thing I personally like is the camera design. Because I’ve owned 4 different Canon DSLR bodies over that last 11 years, the layout of the buttons and features are all familiar to me. When I want to change the f-stop, I quickly know where to place my finger. While three autofocus points don’t sound like a lot, the simplicity works. It makes the 61 selectable focal points on a Canon 5DMIV DSLR extreme overkill. I enjoy using Canon L-series lenses like the 24-105 f/4 and 70-200 f2.8. One thing I’ve learned over the last 4 years is I don’t like heavy SLR cameras. The 10S only weighs 625 g (1.4 lbs), but when you use a lens like the 70-200 f/2.8, you add another 1490 g (3.28 lbs). The 10S uses a single 6V 2CR5 lithium battery. Even though it’s a common battery, I paid more for the battery than the camera.

I’ve shot 4 rolls with this camera and will be posting the results over the next few weeks. Plus, next week I want to cover the most interesting part of the 10S, the Canon SLR Barcode Reader. Yes, think grocery-store-beeping-barcode reader.

Camera: Canon EOS 10S (1990)
Lens: Canon 24-105mm f/4 IS USM L-Series
Film: Kosmo Foto Mono 100
Process: Kodak D76 (1+1) 10:00 Min @ 20°
Scanner: Epson V600 Photo

 


Save Water & Time When Developing

Utah is the 2nd driest state in the country. Mother Nature gives us an average of thirteen inches of water per year. Yes, we’re in a high desert, and we boast The Greatest Snow on Earth. Our Wasatch Mountains receive an average of sixty inches of water per year. Water is an essential, but a limited resource. About 40% of our municipal water supply comes from surface water sources. Meaning, we have some natural springs and wells, but the majority is collected in reservoirs. Most of the water we use for landscaping comes from a secondary source, untreated water stored in reservoirs and dams. Water is critical, and water provides life.

FPP Archival Wash

Last year while developing film at home, I kept asking myself, “I’m rinsing this film for 10 minutes because the Massive Dev app tells me to. Why?” It seemed like such an enormous waste of water. About this time, the Film Photography Project Store started to produce and sell FPP Archival Permanent Wash for Black & White Negatives. There’s nothing new about archival wash, but it was new to me. I emailed Leslie Lazenby at the Film Photography Project and asked her about it. This is her response:

Hi Shaun,

Good to hear from you! Personally, and professionally I don’t know any film that will have any permanence with just a 10-minute wash time. Depending on the film and the fixer used it is a minimum of 30 minutes to 1 hour. So, yes FPP’s Archival Permanent Wash is just the ticket for the 2nd driest State in the Union.

Here’s how it works:
Mix 3 ounces of it with enough water to make 1 gallon of working solution.
After the Fix step, wash your negatives for 1 minute in running water.
Soak the negatives in your APW working solution for 1 minute (remember this working solution is re-useable for at least 75 rolls!).
Final wash is 1 additional minute in running water – done!
If you use a wetting agent like PhotoFlo it would follow here.
As an archival freak and a water advocate, I love this stuff.

Now I’m saving over 90% of the water I used to waste on rinsing film. Plus, instead of rinsing for 10-minutes as indicated by the Massive Dev Chart, the final steps only take 3 minutes. And now my black and white negatives are archival. The 1 quart bottle of concentrate makes about 10 gallons of Archival Permanent Wash working solution that can be reused for up to 3 months or 75 rolls. And if you don’t want to mix a gallon, you can use the directions on the bottle to make smaller quantities. Here’s an example of my modified recipe in the Massive Dev app:

Kosmo Foto 100 – 35mm, ISO 100
Kodak D-76 (1+1)

Development: 9 Minutes
Stop Bath: 1 Minute
Fixing: 5 Minutes
Rinse: 1 Minute
FPP APW: 1 Minute
Rinse: 1 Minute
Photo Flo: 1 Minute

You can also listen to Leslie Lazenby respond to my email in the “Dr. Is In” segment on the Film Photography Project Podcast, 54:26 into the podcast.

If you have a product recommendation or a tip on saving water while developing film, please let me know in the comments. I’m interested to learn what other people have done to conserve water and save time.

 


Leica M3 (1959) – Part 2

While using the borrowed 50mm 5cm Summicron-M f/2.0 (Rigid/2nd version) (1956), I decided that I really needed to purchase my own lens. Having just spent what I think is a considerable amount on the M3 body, I wanted to limit my lens purchase to something more affordable. Searching for an M-Mount lens on eBay led me to this lens, followed by some research, and a week of careful consideration.

The 7artisans f/1.1 50mm is a new lens made in China. According to the 7artisans website, a group of seven Chinese camera enthusiasts, having various professional backgrounds, came together to create this new lens. The 50mm lens is a Leica M-Mount and has an aperture range from f/1.1 to f/16. It has 12 aperture blades, and 7 elements in 6 groups. The lens itself is a heavy piece of glass and aluminum, with a copper core. It weighs nearly 14 ounces, so slightly less than 1 lb.

As I was doing some research on this lens, I wanted to see actual images taken with a Leica camera. However, all I could find were digital photos taken with Sony cameras. I determined that Sony users are the perfect market for an affordable prime 50mm f/1.1 lens. I found this review by Hamish Gill on 35mmc.com, where he used the lens on a Sony body. And then found this review by Emulsive, where he used the f2 version of the lens on a Leica film camera. Note/opinion: the f/2 50mm has a better review because the f/1.1 tested was a pre-production model.

The shots below are my initial results with the Leica M3. Being a Leica newbie, I must have done something very wrong because the first half of this roll did not come out. Overall, this is a solid lens. The build quality is good. The aperture and focus are smooth and easy to use. Unfortunately, a focus tab is not built on to this lens. They ship a rubber tab that you can stick to the lens barrel if you want, not ideal. The optical quality is what I would expect for the price. I expected the lens to be soft when it’s open at f/1.1, but was surprised by a few shots. The thin slice of focus is nice, but hard to achieve. And really, how often do you need something at f/1.1? This lens is also shipped with a focus sheet and some instructions on how to adjust the focus. Something I don’t think I’d attempt to mess with.

I spent a week in New York with the M3 and the 7artisan 50mm f/1.1. After a while, my biggest complaint became the weight. The 50mm Summicron-M would have been a better choice. Or anything smaller and lighter for that matter. Walking 7 to 14 miles in and around the city made me reconsider the choice I’d made. There were three days I left the camera behind. I’ll be sharing some photos of New York in the coming weeks.

Camera: Leica M3 (1959)
Film: Kosmo Foto Mono 100
Process: Kodak D-76 (1+1) 10:00 @ 20c
Scanned: Epson V600 Photo