Monday, January 25, 2021

Shooting the Beast

 I nearly always like the images I get from the Mamiya C330 and each time I shoot it I pledge that I will use it more often.  It doesn't happen.  I average picking up the camera once yearly.  That's been going on now for ten years.  

I loaded some HP5+ into the C330 on Saturday and went down to the river in the afternoon.  There were ducks, geese and cranes in the ankle-deep water from bank to bank.  It was a scene that seemed to call out for some telephoto work.  Of course, I had left the 180mm lens for the C330 at home along with all the other accessories for the camera.  Luckily, the 2.8/80mm lens is ultra-sharp and the HP5+ combined with PMK Pyro processing yields very fine grain.  So, I came home with one good bird shot.

I think the lens on my YashicaMat is likely just as sharp as the lenses I have for the C330.  However, the close focusing and parallax correction available in the Mamiya give it the edge whenever I'm out prospecting for images.

On my recent outing with the camera I used the waist-level finder; it is very bright and easy to focus with the flip-up magnifying lens.  The Porroflex finder is a little dimmer and does not completely show the full image that will be on the film, but it makes shooting at a downward angle much easier.  The accessory grip  in combination with the neck strap also contributes greatly to managing the heavy camera.

Saturday, January 23, 2021

Tweaking the Leotax & the Jupiter 12

 I took a walk in the neighborhood with the Leotax after making some adjustments.  

I decided to slightly lessen the tension on the first curtain in order to reduce the shutter capping which was giving me an uneven exposure across the frame.  The Leotax makes such adjustments a bit easier than the Leica.  You just lift the spring off the cogwheel and turn it slightly clockwise and then let the spring down again to maintain the setting.

I also applied some black paint to the rim of the Jupiter 12's rear element to eliminate some flare at the edge of the images.  

Both adjustments seem to have worked.  The exposure across the frame seemed even, and the odd flare I got in images from the Jupiter 12 lens was gone.  The film I used for the test was some Agfa APX 100, expired 07/98.  I gave the film a couple extra stops of exposure to compensate for age, but it still required a bit more of a boost with Photoshop to get the proper tonal values.  The APX was processed in Rodinal 1:50.

The Leotax really needs a full CLA, but I'll likely let someone else undertake that assignment.  I was pleased with the progress on the camera, and even more so with the improved performance of the Jupiter 12 lens, which is a favorite for use with the Barnack-style cameras.

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Family Photo Forensics

Margaret made a deep dive into storage boxes to make an album of photographs of our family. She has finished up the project with the pictures we have from when our two dughters first started their own families. One of the pictures which shows me sitting at my desk in our house on Skyway in Las Cruces is a real time capsule. Margaret pointed out to me that the photo was made when I was at the age where our oldest daughter is now.
At first glance, I thought Margaret must have made the photo with our Pentax Spotmatic. That imprinted date in the lower right corner, however, belies that thought. I am pretty sure now that the picture was made with a Pentax IQZoom which I bought for Margaret around that time. It was a miserable camera which only worked for a short time; it went into the trash and would not have been recoverable in memory had it not been for the saved snapshot. 

 The one book title I can read clearly in the picture is Using PC Dos. Immeditely to the right is my IBM pc clone from those days. I bought two of those, one for my own use and one for a project funded by the the New Mexico Social Workers organization to set up a Fidonet computer bulletin board system (bbs) which a professor and I ran from his office at NMSU. I ran the social worker's bbs for several years, and also operated a personal one from my own pc over a second home phone line. In that same year, Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web and created the first web browser. A couple years later we abandoned the bbs and I set up a web page for the social workers and operated that for a couple more years. 

 On the wall above the pc is a picture of a petroglyph at Lucero Arroyo, a few mile north of Las Cruces. I'm not sure if that photo was made with the Spotmatic or the IQZoom. I made a lot of pictures of petroglyphs in those days as I wandered around in the Chihuahuan desert in southern New Mexico with the help of that map to the right which depicts the BLM land throughout the state. Many of those photographs were incorporated into a web site which I called Sacred Places: New Mexico Rock Art. I closed down that site when I found that it was a lot easier to post my thoughts on a Google Blog, but the Sacred Places site lives on as an addendum to Mike Eckman's web site about film photography.

I suspect there is quite a bit more history that might be gleaned from that photo. The 4x6 print is not very good quality, but a bigger enlargement of the negative (if I could find it) would likely make more of the book titles legible. I would probably be able to see at least the date and headlines of that copy of the Las Cruces Sun News. Maybe I could even make out the time on my watch, and the subject of those paragraphs on the computer screen.

Monday, January 18, 2021

Leotax Elite

 I picked up this Leotax Elite recently at a good price from a seller on Rangefinderforum.  It is a Japanese Leica clone from about 1959.  

The camera looked good with only  few signs of use and it seemed to be working.  However, there was no take-up spool and the ones I use in my Leica and Soviet copies did not fit in the Leotax.  Some research indicated the Canon spools with a pop-up handle were what I needed.  I found a pair on ebay.

I shot a roll of HP5+ and processed that in Legacypro L110b.  I wasn't too happy with that combination, but at least I got to see that the camera could make some pictures.

I tried out three of my Soviet lenses with mixed results.  The Jupiter 8 and the FED 50 seemed ok, but I'm not sure about the Jupiter 12.  The camera itself has a few issues that will need attention.  The viewfinder is a little cloudy, the rewind switch is a bit hinky, and the shutter curtains need to be properly tensioned because of some uneven exposure across the image.  I'll try adjusting the shutter tension, but I'm not sure I'll trust myself with the rest.

I found a couple good repair information resources on the web for the Leotax:

On Flickr there is a good tutorial about viewfinder cleaning for the similar Leotax K.

A Youtube video shows how to take the Elite apart and get it back together, though the presenter gets a bit confused at the end about reassembling the rewind handle and leaves that incomplete.  

There is a good review of the whole Leotax line at the yashicatlr site.

Saturday, January 16, 2021

Cannon Pellix

 The Canon Pellix was first produced in 1965.  Like the contemporary Pentax Spotmatic the Pellix provides through-the-lens metering which requires the aperture to be stopped down with a lever to obtain a reading.  Unlike the Pentax and any other single lens reflex 35mm camera of that time, however, the Pellix did not have a swinging mirror which directed the image to the viewfinder before being flipped out of the way to expose the image.  Instead, the Canon has a stationary pellicle mirror which directs one-third of the light coming through the lens to the viewfinder with the remaining two-thirds passing through the semi-transparent mirror to the image plane.  That means that there is no blink when the shutter is activated, but it also means that the image seen in the finder is a bit dimmer than with more conventional slr cameras.  Mine shows that dimness, but the view is still pretty good, due in part to the fast Canon FL 50/1.4 lens.

I loaded a roll of Agfa APX 25 in the camera and took it for a walk in the neighborhood.  The meter needs a 1.3 volt Mercury cell; it works with a 1.5v, though it reads a stop low.  I did not bother with trying to get readings with the meter as the film was fifteen years past its use-by date and it seemed like my best guess on exposure was likely good enough.  I bracketed some shots to get some idea on the best settings for the expired status of the film, and verified after seeing the negatives that a couple extra stops were required for good negative density.

The big Canon 50/1.4 lens proved itself to be a fine performer and the images looked good as long as I gave the well-aged APX enough light.  I got home with about half the roll unused so I decided to finish it up with some closeup shots around the house.  The FL 50/1.4 requires filters that are 58mm in diameter.  I only had a 52mm +4 that I use on my Nikons, so I just taped the accessory closeup lens to the front of the FL.  I missed some shots trying to focus and shoot in the low interior lighting, but I had fun with the Pellix and was pleased with the way it handled the challenges I gave it.

I developed the expired APX 25 in Rodinal 1:50 for ten minutes.  For the properly exposed shots that produced a nice range of tones and almost imperceptible grain.

While I'm at the kitchen sink developing film I generally ask Alexa to play me whatever is on NPR or some music.  On this occasion I asked for what Alexa had of Billie Holiday.  I think Amazon probably determines the song order by which ones are most often requested.  So, I got to hear Strange Fruit and several other familiar tunes during the half hour of film processing.  That was such a nice experience that I continued with Holiday's songs on Youtube while I massaged the images on Photoshop for the rest of the day.  One of the Youtube links had just about every tune that she sang.

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Portraits on the Fly

 I finished off the roll of Kentmere 100 in my Nikon F at a small birthday celebration for our granddaughter, Cate, who turned twelve.  This again was an instance of a situation which was marginally suitable for photography with a slow speed film.  I shot at 1/125 and with the lens at its maximum aperture of f2.5.  The negatives looked thin, but the essential details and tonalities were captured thanks to the bright viewfinder of the camera and the excellent performance of the Nikkor 105mm lens which really excels for portrait work.

One thing I like about shooting with the Nikon F is that it is fully manual in operation.  If the images I get are poorly exposed or focused there is no doubt about assigning responsibility.

Monday, January 11, 2021


 I took a morning walk along Central Ave with my Nikon F.

While I was taking some shots through the front display window of The Man's Hat Shop the owner invited me inside to make some pictures.  With slow film and a 105mm lens I wasn't confident of getting anything, but the Nikkor-P proved itself up to the challenge.

Tuesday, January 05, 2021

Nikon F + HP5 + Xtol

I loaded some HP5 into my Nikon F and went on one of my usual walks through the neighborhood to the Old Town Plaza.  Something about this camera inspires me to see old subjects in a new light, and I finished up the roll before I was back home.

The Nikon F is arguably the best buy in my collection of old cameras; it would have been a bargain at two or three times the price.  It shows little signs of use and everything works smoothly and precisely.  The shutter is accurate and quiet.  The Nikon lenses are all fine performers.

I processed the HP5 in Xtol at 1+1 dilution and was very pleased to see the best results I have gotten from this developer.  The grain and tonal spectrum were near perfect with little need for Photoshop adjustments.