Thursday, November 21, 2019

Adventures in Photography

I found myself with some free time late in the morning, so I decided to walk over to Old Town with my Leica IIIa to which I had attached the Industar 22 lens, a Soviet copy of the collapsible Elmar.  I finished up the roll of TMAX 100 that was in the camera, making some pictures on the street, at the park and at the Art Museum.  New Mexico's mid-day light is often too harsh for photography, but on this day some scattered clouds softened the light enough to get some shots.

The photographs I made were not very exciting, but it still turned out to be a great photo walk.  I ran into Marco Wikstrom who is a member of our New Mexico Film Photographers group as well as a participant in the co-op which runs a photography gallery in Old Town.  I walked with him to the gallery which he was going to open for the day.  We looked at his photos which he has on exhibit now, and we talked about a couple of his current projects which include an upcoming trip to New Zealand.

On the way home I cut through Tiguex Park and came upon our friend Lana who was a neighbor and the first friend we made when we move to Albuquerque over ten years ago.  Lana and a friend were walking their dogs.  She recalled that I had made a picture of her and her dog, Buddy, some time ago and asked if I would make some more to bring things up to date.  So I did.

When I got home I rewound the film back into the cassette in preparation for development; the film strip got caught at the end and broke, and the shutter by its sound was clearly not working right.  I removed the lens, set the shutter to Bulb and when I released the shutter I could see that there was a folded over piece of film stuck under the shutter curtain.  I managed to fish that out with some pliers, and everything seemed to be working properly after that.

I have been getting some thin negatives from my home development, so I decided to process semi-stand in 5ml of HC-110 in 650ml of distilled water.  It is hard to mess up with that combination and the negatives looked ok, but I may abandon HC-110 even though it has been a long-time favorite.  

In looking around on the web I have found that a lot of people are reporting problems with a number of Kodak developers including TMAX, HC-110 and Xtol.  Kodak has apparently had to make changes in the chemical components of the developers which has degraded both longevity and effectiveness.  Fortunately, there are alternatives.  I have Rodinal and PMK Pyro for black and white, and I am happy enough at present with Cinestill C-41 for color work.  I may also try LegacyPro LMAX from Freestyle which is said to be identical to TMAX developer before it was altered.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

The mju cameras

I recently came across a couple Olympus Stylus cameras at a local thrift shop, an Olympus Infinity Stylus (mju) and an Olympus Stylus Epic (mju2).  The prices were $5 for the mju and $3 for the mju2.

The mju showed a lot of use, but it had a battery and it lit up when I opened the sliding front door -- which I suppose accounted for its higher price.  The mju2 looked nice; a new battery started it up too.  

I loaded a roll in the Stylus Epic the next morning and managed to get through all 36 exposures on a roll of Fuji 200.  The camera seemed to be working nearly perfectly, though the shutter button was a little over-sensitive.  When I scanned the negatives the pictures looked good except for small light leaks in some of the images.  A bit of black tape near the viewfinder will likely solve the leak problem.

The mju2 commands ridiculous prices these days, so I was pleased to have found one that only needed a little attention to work.  On closely examining the pictures, though, I am not convinced that the camera makes pictures that are significantly superior to what I get from the mju that I have been shooting for the past ten years.  To test that idea, I finished up another roll of Fuji 200 in the older mju on a walk in the neighborhood.  I shot several of the same scenes as the day before and the light was quite similar.

The f/2.8, 35mm lens on the Stylus Epic is clearly a more sophisticated design than that of the f/3.5 lens on the older Inifity Stylus.  However, a search on the web about the newer camera turned up some support for my judgment based on my informal test.  What I found was that complaints about light leaks in the newer model are very common.  It appears that the rubber ring light seal in the Stylus Epic is not as robust as the seals in the older camera.  Additionally, I found a couple references to the idea that the auto-focusing algorithm for the Stylus Epic leaned toward wide open exposures.  So, even though the Stylus Epic has a lot of present day enthusiasts, I think there is good reason to be skeptical of any real superiority to the older Infinity Stylus.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

More from the Patent Etui

I walked around downtown Wednesday morning and visited the Roadrunner station on 1st St.  I was carrying the KW Patent Etui plate camera with the Tessar lens and loaded with Arista Edu Ultra 400. I was pleased to see in the pictures that I had gotten a bit better in framing my shots with the camera's wire frame viewfinder.  I processed the film with semi-stand development in Rodinal for one hour at 1:100 dilution.

The Rodinal processing gave me tonalities and grain that were not a bad fit with the subject, but I liked my results with this film better with the PMK Pyro developer that I used in my last outing with my other Patent Etui.  I have one more roll of the Arista film and I think I'll try it with HC-110 to see how that compares with the Rodinal and PMK processing.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Shooting the Patent Etui

I recently purchased a few rolls of 120-size Arista Edu Ultra 400 to shoot in my medium format cameras.  I decided to start off with one of my KW Patent Etui plate cameras with the f4.5/10.5cm Trioplan lens.  I shot the roll at 200 ASA with the intent of processing in PMK Pyro.  I did not find any guides to using that combination of film and developer, so I looked around at similar combinations for which there were reported results, and I decided to develop for twelve minutes at 24C.  I was happy enough with the outcome, but I could also see that my results were not optimal because of the length of time elapsed since I last used the camera.

* * *




* * *

Plate cameras were very popular in the 1920s and '30s.  All the major manufacturers made them and all had essentially the same set of features, often using the same Compur shutters and Zeiss lenses.  The folding plate cameras were very compact compared to other popular styles available in those days and the KW Patent Etui (KAWEE) and the Bentzin Primar were notable for their extremely clever design which allowed them to be folded up and easily slipped into a pocket.  When folded, the Patent Etui occupied about the same space as a packet of three plate holders, or a filmpack adapter.

Accessory roll film holders were available for all the plate cameras; the two most common being the Rada and the Rollex.  Because of the thin slots on the back of the Patent Etui, only the Rollex will work with my 6.5x9  KW cameras.  While the roll film back did provide a relatively easy way to use commonly available roll film cartridges with the plate cameras, it did also negate the plate camera's compactness to a large degree.

It is possible even today to purchase glass plates for use with the plate film cameras, but the multi-sheet film packs have not been available for decades and cut film is hard to find in the 6.5x9 size.  I have so far only used my plate cameras with the roll film adapters.

All of the plate cameras come with three options for viewing the subject to be photographed.  The ground glass backs are essential when high precision is required for framing the subject as in close-up work.  The need to switch out the film back with the ground glass back makes for a rather awkward and time-consuming process and a sturdy, stable tripod is essential.  The little reflex finder and the wire frame finders make hand-held operation possible and are quicker to use, but still require some careful alignment to yield a good result.

I sometimes use the reflex finder and it works, but the image is pretty small and easily obscured if the head is not held precisely in the right position relative to the finder.  The bubble level next to the finder is helpful in keeping the image properly angled.

On the Patent Etui a little post is flipped up to use in conjunction with the swing-out wire frame finder.  With the round tip of the post properly centered, the wire frame will enclose the portion of the scene which will be recorded on the film.  It takes some practice to get good framing with such an arrangement.

So, while good results from any of the plate cameras do require some time and practice to achieve, their features can provide a great deal of versatility and deliver images of excellent quality.  Even with relatively simple 3-element uncoated lenses like the Trioplan the big 6.5x9 or 9x12 negatives will provide sharp pictures with a deep range of tonal values.  If you need further convincing of the picture-making capacities of the little plate cameras, just take a look at the work Brassai did with his.

Saturday, November 02, 2019

Comparing Signets

I shot a roll of ColorPlus 200 in my Kodak Signet 35 to try to get a comparison of the images produced by the first and second models in the Signet line.  I cannot really see any significant differences in the qualities of the two cameras' pictures that were not a product of lighting and my own performance.

In terms of handling the slightly larger size of the Signet 40 does help the user keep the trigger finger from blocking the rangefinder window.  It does not seem to me that the lever advance or the wider range of shutter speeds in the model 40 would have impelled owners of the sturdy little 35 to abandon it in favor of the 40.

There is, however, an interesting comparison to be made between the ornamental designs of the two cameras related to the dominating influence of American car design which held sway in those days.  In 1951 when the Signet 35 came out, post-war car design showed the influence of aircraft styles -- the lines were generally rounded, the rear fenders still bulged out over the wheels and there were also remnants of deco chrome details carried over from the pre-war period.  By 1956 when the Signet 40 appeared, cars were more angular and slab-sided and camera designs reflected similar changes.