Film Faves #2

A regular series of very short posts that revisit some of my favourite film photographs from the last five years since I’ve been shooting film.

9653018538_2a353988c3_c
Chinon CE-4S, Pentax-M f/1.7 50mm lens, Agfa CT Precisa cross processed film, double exposed

I’m fond of this shot for a few reasons.

Mainly because it was the first shot where I figured out how to deliberately layer two compositions so one filled the other.

I’d dabbled with multiple exposures very early on with my first film camera, the Holga 120N, but it had mostly ended up as two random layers of colliding images with no relation.

I started to realise from small sections of the photos from these experiments, that if you had a strong silhouette on one layer and strong colours on the other layer, you could “fill” the silhouette with colour.

This shot is the first where I deliberate shot the two layers with this intention – and largely it worked as I’d hoped. 

I also like it because it’s one of the first times I’d cross processed film, and I was pretty delighted with the hyper real greens and blues the CT Precise gave me.

Strangely, some of the vivid colours I get with my Pentax K10D DSLR and Pentax-A series lenses remind me of cross processing Precisa, especially the greens. Like this one.

Have you ever tried double exposures, or cross processing? Please let us know in the comments below (and share links to your favourite results!)

Thanks for reading. Please share this post with others you feel will enjoy it too.

Advertisements

Triple Underdog – 3 Humble 50mm Lenses That Far Exceeded Expectations

Many vintage lenses have impressive reputations online.

But in my direct experience over the last four years or so, disappointingly often I’ve found them to be expensive and over-hyped.

In contrast, I’ve found a few with very modest (or virtually non-existent) reputations, but still capable of very impressive results.

Here are three of these dark horse performers, and why I like them.

1. Ricoh Rikenon 50mm f/2, Pentax K Mount

In Pentax K mount the yardstick tends to be Pentax’s own M lenses, not least of all the Pentax-M 50mm f/1.7.

But I’ve had a few 50/2 Rikenons and they’ve given the Pentax lenses a very close run for their money.

17344108862_12b7c94800_b
Sony NEX 3N, Ricoh Rikenon 50mm f/2

The little Rikenon comes in two sizes, one version more compact than the other. I suspect they’re otherwise the same, and I certainly got equally good images from both.

Whereas with some lenses you try to avoid shooting at their maximum aperture, the Rikenons are great from f/2 onwards. The robin shot below is at f/2, and is straight out of camera (NEX) without any processing.

17058154945_3a8bd1351c_b
Sony NEX 3N, Ricoh Rikenon 50mm f/2

Being more plastic than the Pentax-M 50/1.7, they’re lighter too, especially the compact version.

If I had a Pentax K mount body and just one of these Rikenon 50/2s, I’d be more than confident of capturing excellent images time and time again.

16710510836_7bf4148f3d_b
Pentax ME, Ricoh Rikenon 50mm f/2 lens, Kodak Color Plus 200 expired film

Something like a Pentax MV plus the Rikenon would be a fantastic, compact set up – pretty much as small as a full frame 35mm SLR and lens gets. The cheapest I picked up one of these lenses was something like £5.

2. Cosina Cosinon-S 50mm 1.8, Pentax K Mount

Again in K mount, I got this with a Cosina CS-1 body unbelievably cheaply (less than £10) and was expecting cheap results.

But, despite being a bit crude to use compared to the best in K mount, the Cosinon-S was more than adequate in the final image.

16732483418_7a5278dc66_b
Sony NEX 3N, Cosina Cosinon-S 50mm f/1.8

I never got to test it on some of my favourite hunting grounds (or with a film camera), but even with fairly mundane lunchtime walks I captured enough to see its potential.

I should not have been surprised then when its Auto Cosinon 135/2.8 sibling in M42 (another bargain at around £15) gave me such memorable results too.

16795423492_208dacbf6f_b
Sony NEX 3N, Cosina Cosinon-S 50mm f/1.8

I later learned that whilst Cosina didn’t make that many of their own branded cameras and lenses, they’ve made them for virtually everyone else, including Canon, Nikon, Olympus and Konica! And still do – some Voigtlanders, amongst others, are made by Cosina.

3. Centon MC 50mm f/1.7, Pentax K Mount

This brand I’d not even heard of and bought it for around £15 attached to a Ricoh AF SLR, assuming it was a Rikenon 50/1.7, after the pleasing results the 50/2 version mentioned above gave me.

It was instead a Centon, a Chinese manufacturer apparently, and seemed like brand new. The build quality was surprisingly tight, and the focus smooth, both aspects superior than the Rikenon or Cosina above.

17027247180_d8ec6f500e_b
Sony NEX 3N, Centon MC 50mm f/1.7 lens

I sold the Ricoh body for most of what I paid, so this lens ended up costing me literally a couple of pounds.

Again this was in Pentax K mount, which goes do show that you don’t need to buy a lens with Pentax stamped on to get decent results. Or even that you need to stick with Japanese and German optics.

dsc04341
Sony NEX 3N, Centon MC 50mm f/1.7

In conclusion, in 50mm lenses at least, there are so many capable options out there, you don’t have to pay a fortune or for one of the biggest names, which sometimes don’t live up to their online hype and expectation anyway.

What’s your favourite 50mm lens? Which lenses in your collection have been dark horses and impressed you far more than you anticipated? Let us know in the comments below.

Thanks for reading. Please share this post with others you feel will enjoy it too.

 

Five Pointed SLR

31849322141_1a3fbd1ecc_c

Despite having four more SLRs than pictured here, these are my latest incarnation of the core kit I love and need.

I’m tired of having more, and always switching batteries, straps and lenses around.

Here’s why I love these five, and plan to keep them and sell the rest –

Contax 167MT

As fierce as it is handsome, it does all I possibly need from an SLR, efficiently and seamlessly.

30642466724_16e088359e_c
Contax 167MT, Yashica ML 50mm f/1.5 lens, Northern Film Lab Kodak Vision 3 ISO1.6 film

This is the one I reach for if I need a wide ISO and shutter speed range (ISO6-6400 and 1/4000s to 16s respectively), exposure compensation (+/- 2 in 1/3 stops), exposure bracketing (+/- 0.5 or 1 stop), continuous shooting and automated wind on.

It also has the purest viewfinder (VF) of any camera, pure matte, bar the simple central circle.

Though I don’t yet have a Zeiss lens with MM modes, the 167MT supports these so offers shutter priority and three program modes, as well as the fully Manual (M) and Aperture Priority (Av) modes that can be used with an C/Y lens. With the M42 > C/Y adapter I can use any lens I have (I now only have M42 and C/Y lenses!) on the one camera.

Also, this is the only camera here I don’t have any “if onlys” about. It has everything.

Contax 139 Quartz

My favourite SLR I have ever used.

Simpler than the awesome 167MT, but with that comes smaller size, lighter weight and a more straightforward, arguably more immersive experience.

26918525223_a07dcc512e_c
Contax 139 Quartz, Carl Zeiss Jena DDR Pancolar 50mm f/1.8 M42 lens, AgfaPhoto Vista Plus 200 film @ISO125

Excellent VF, Av and M modes, and the smoothest wind on and shutter button I’ve yet experienced in any SLR, make it an absolute delight to use.

With the aperture read out as well as shutter speed in the VF (that remain easy to see, yet don’t obstruct the main composition), plus a depth of field (DOF) preview button, it has all I need for 95% of my photography.

I might argue the button on the front for exposure check is less instinctive to use than a half press of the shutter button, but the 159MM has that, as well as a wider range of capabilities, yet somehow I don’t like that model as much as the 139 Quartz or the 167MT.

Canon EOS 500

This still feels a very strange choice for me, and a real oddball in that it’s relatively modern (1993-96), very plasticky, not made by Contax or Pentax, plus I have no native lenses for it.

But despite my long reluctance – disdain even, at even picking up an EOS, I finally succumbed when this came along and still left me change from a fiver.

For the money it’s an incredibly useful, versatile and easy to use camera.

29970882605_c7b6b2e444_c
Canon EOS 500, Fujinon 55mm f/1.8 M42 lens, Fuji Superia 100 film expired 2003 @ISO64

The ergonomics are surprisingly good, it’s very light, and in many ways is even more capable than the 167MT, equalling the ISO6-6400 range of film speeds, plus whilst the top shutter speed is a stop slower at 1/2000s, the max is an impressive 30s!

The VF, if not a revelation compared with the Contax cameras, is really very good for a camera designed purely with AF lenses in mind.

Talking of which, with a native EF lens you have the option of auto or manual focus, Manual, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority and Program modes, as well as further portrait, landscape, macro and sports modes, and a very fancy A-DEP (Automatic Depth of Field) setting which apparently lets you choose two points between which you want everything to be in focus, then the camera chooses the right aperture to do this. Wow!

I’m very tempted to pick up a 50/1.8 EF lens to explore these modes, and then I’d have an SLR that covers every mode from fully manual (ISO, focus, aperture, shutter speed) to fully auto and everything in between.

Oh and the exposure system is excellent, I’ve been delighted with the shots I’ve got with the EOS and my M42 lenses so far. As well as the M42 > EOS adapter I have a C/Y to EOS adapter so again like the Contax bodies I can use any lens I have on this camera.

Asahi Pentax Spotmatic F

The most classic, most endearing, best built and smoothest to use M42 SLR I’ve tried. Indeed it’s the best mechanical camera I’ve used full stop. Just a joy, especially with the Takumar lenses.

16394171897_b6fc70c446_c
Asahi Pentax Spotmatic F, Auto Chinon 55mm F/1.7 M42 lens, Ferrania Solaris 200 expired film

Whilst the meter does work in mine, I just use it Sunny 16 (Sunny 11 in the UK!) and get along fine.

The camera I reach for when I want battery-less old school simplicity, elegance and fine mechanical engineering.

Contax 139 Quartz

Same as the other one, just this one has been re-covered. Aside from that they’re equally delicious to handle and use, and it’s the only camera I love so much I feel I need a back up!

27220260951_60c5ab05a4_c
Contax 139 Quartz, Yashica ML 50mm f/1.7 lens, FujiFilm Superia 100 film expired 2012 @ISO125

Writing about these five has been enlightening.

It’s compounded the fact that the three Contax and the Spotmatic are absolute keepers and cameras I adore owning and using.

But surprisingly, more than that, it’s reminded me how versatile the little EOS is, and how it’s the lightest and arguable most versatile body of all here. An AutoFocus EF lens (50/1.8 or maybe 35/2) seems very tempting, which would extend its versatility much further still.

Which is almost unbelievable, especially given it cost me about a tenth of what the other four here did!

The conclusion, to my own shock as much as anyone, seems to be that for those who want a light, adaptable, capable and super affordable film SLR, get an EOS and an M42 adapter!

What are your favourite SLRs? Have you had any of the above, or similar? Let us know in the comments below.

Thanks for reading. Please share this post with others you feel will enjoy it too.

Mju Little Beauty

olympusmju1

Olympus made more than a few of the Olympus Mju 1, or to give it its full name, µ[mju:]-1, and over the last four years, I’ve had three of them.

The first two I enjoyed using but struggled to get any memorable pictures from them, and ended up selling them off, greatly disappointed.

My third example had similar beginnings, with a lacklustre test roll, so I was almost ready to give up on the promising little Olympus once and for all.

But something implored me to try one more roll, and though most of the shots were once again a let down, a couple were impressive enough to encourage me to experiment more. 

28615508046_7d2b3d921c_z

28615508456_40be14a7b1_c

After another roll still, the keeper rate (the number of shots I like enough to share online) has shot up vastly, and I’m sold on the charms of the Mju 1 for good.

Here’s why I’ve finally realised why Olympus’s tiny AF wonder is such a beauty – 

Size

One of very few genuinely trouser pocketable compact film cameras out there. I’ve had dozens that can be persuaded (ie forced) into a coat pocket, but the only ones I would call truly pocketable are the Mju 1, its older siblings the XA and XA2, the Minox 35 range, and Minolta’s AF-C. The Mju 1 excels in its sleekly streamlined shell adding further to its compactness.

Yes, its successor, the Mju II, is as slender, but for me the handling is poor and for the brief time I had one I nearly dropped it every time I went to use it. For me, Olympus took the compact design too far, and failed. If you can’t use the camera effectively it doesn’t matter if it’s as small as a box of matches.

cnv00056

Ergonomics

Which ties in with the small size. The killer curves of the little Mju, which are excellent when the sliding lens cover is closed and even better when its open, make it a joy to hold and shoot with. The combination of the curved rear thumb rest and shaped front finger grips are an inspired design.

When you want to photograph in a slower and more contemplative way, the Mju’s handling is just as reassuring. When shooting two handed and/or at awkward angles, I use my left hand with thumb and forefinger at right angles to rest the camera upon. It really could not fit better in my hands.

Immediacy

Or in other words, the “pure point and shoot-ness” of the camera. The Mju 1 is I think the only camera I can take out of my pocket, slide open the cover, take a photo then close it and return to my pocket in a matter of a couple of seconds. With one hand. In my book its exquisite design make it the definitive point and shoot compact.

cnv00061

Auto Focus

First of all the AF seems very reliable. I can’t recall having a shot yet where the camera hasn’t focused where I wanted it to.

Second, the AF confirm light in the viewfinder is clear, bright and logical. If the camera has locked focus (with a half press of the shutter button), the AF light remains steady green. If you’re too close (or the camera can’t focus for another reason) it flashes slowly. Simple, but so many compacts don’t give you this feedback.

Thirdly, and probably best of all, the Mju’s little lens focuses down to just 0.35m, an absolute delight for someone like me who loves shooting up close, but where the standard close focus for compacts is 0.8-0.9m. The difference between 0.8m and 0.35m is huge in terms of how many more creative options are available, and how much more of the world it becomes possible to capture.

As much as I love the Olympus XA, and its lens is very impressive in the final result, I struggle hugely to focus with its tiny rangefinder patch, and half the shots I take seem to be slightly off in focus. No such frustrations with the Mju 1, meaning ultimately I’d reach for the Mju now ahead of the XA.

cnv00073

Lens

Although there are a plethora of compacts with very impressive 35mm f/2.8 lenses, the Mju’s humble 35/3.5, 3 elements in 3 groups lens is very good once you find what it likes.

At my level of photography (enthusiastic amateur), and for someone who doesn’t make/need large prints, the best photographs I’ve made with the Mju 1 have been more than good enough to not make me want to ditch the baby Olympus and reach for a more sophisticated f/2.8 that’s two or three times the bulk.

The focal length of 35mm is pretty much perfect for a compact, allowing a decent depth of field when shooting wider scenes, but still, combined with the Mju’s aforementioned close focus of 0.35m, gives some pleasingly shallow depth of field. In fact it’s more capable of “SLR like” shots than nearly all other compacts I’ve used.

cnv00057

Autoexposure range

Cleverly, the Mju 1’s shutter range is 1/15s to 1/500s. Which means you needn’t worry about camera shake, as long as you have a reasonably steady hand. I’ve shot handheld at 1/8s with SLRs without any problems.

The max shutter speed of 1/500s at f/16 is fast enough enough in bright sunlight and with ISO400 film, which is the fastest film I use. Mostly I use ISO200 or 100, so in the less than scorching UK the Mju with its smallest aperture of f/16 shouldn’t ever max out.

Flash control

I never use flash. So being able to switch it off is pretty important to me. The flash of the Mju can’t be permanently switched off like some of the early 80s compacts where if the flash isn’t physically popped up, it can’t fire. Neither is it like cameras like the XA series or Minolta AF-C which require separate flash units. Disabling the flash requires two presses of a fairly small button, and this needs to be done again every time you switch the camera on.

But, crucially, the Mju tells you when it wants to use the flash. In the default start up mode of Auto Flash, when you half press the shutter button to lock focus, the red flash light comes on in the VF to advise you of its intentions. At this point, you can then release the shutter button, disable flash with the double button press, recompose and shoot.

In practice, as I shoot mostly in decent outdoor light, this rarely happens, so I can confidently shoot in the default Auto Flash mode without fearing I’ll be unexpectedly blinded at any moment, like with some cameras. Yes I’d rather have no flash at all, but having the camera intelligently warn you is the next best thing. Well done Olympus for giving us the best of both worlds.

cnv00060

Of course, like any camera, as good as the Mju 1 is, it isn’t perfect. 

So what does it lack?

A big VF

The viewfinder isn’t the biggest or brightest you’ll ever find, and the early 80s compacts by Nikon, Canon, Konica, Pentax, Ricoh and Olympus themselves give a far bigger, clearer view. But they’re all two or three times the bulk of the Mju 1. And at least two or three times more noisy!

The VF of the Mju 1 is perfectly adequate for composition, and to set where you want the camera to focus. It also has parallax correction frame lines for when you’re shooting really close. Once you’re used to it, and you remember how small the camera is overall, the VF isn’t an issue.

Manual ISO setting

I use this mostly to overexpose expired film to get more saturated colours. The majority of film I use is ISO200, so I can either just shot this at box speed in the Mju, or if I want to overexpose a stop, simply put a piece of black tape over the DX code. Because for non-DX coded film, the Mju defaults to ISO100, so it’s an easy way of tricking the camera to overexpose ISO200 film a stop.

Yes ideally I like to shoot expired rolls of the beautiful Superia 100 at ISO80 or 64, but it’s not a massive deal, an if I was really concerned I could use/ make some DX code labels to fool the Mju to rate the film at ISO50, the only speed it has lower than ISO100 anyway. ISO200 film plus the black tape trick if and when I need it is just fine.

cnv00064

Manual exposure

In truth, even with an SLR I stick around the same kind of aperture – f/5.6 to f/8. With the Mju’s strength (in my view) being closer shots (it focuses down to just 0.35m remember), at this distance the depth of field is going to be far more shallow anyway, and so far in using the Mju I haven’t been disappointed and thought “I wish I could get a more shallow depth of field”.

The autoexposure seems very intelligent, so much so that I can’t recall a single image where I wished the camera had used a great smaller or larger aperture. This is a tiny AF compact remember.

Having said that, considering it is a compact, the pictures I’ve been able to make are probably more SLR-like than any other compact camera I’ve used. So in practice, not having manual exposure isn’t really an issue at all, especially when the Mju as designed to be a pure point and shoot.

cnv00047

All in all, once I’d made those couple of breakthrough images, the final piece of the Mju puzzle fell into place, and I realised how much of a(nother) little gem Olympus had created.

Right now, if I had to pick just one AF compact from my collection and put away the rest, the Mju 1 would be first choice.

So enamoured am I, I very recently bought an LT-1 (essentially a Mju-1 in a fancy leather jacket) and an AF-1 Mini, reputedly the same lens as the Mju-1, but in a lighter yet weatherproof outer casing. I’m hoping these two will bring as many smiles to my face in the coming weeks as their original sibling has.

If you haven’t tried one – or like me tried a couple of times with lacklustre results – please pick up a Mju 1 and have a(nother) go. Once you start to understand their beauty, there really is no going back, and those bulkier “compacts” start to look a lot less appealing…

Intro

21687806164_a3c2859085_c

35hunter is a diary of my photography hunting adventures.

The three things I’m hunting for are –

  1. Beautiful objects and scenes to capture with a photograph. Usually using 35mm film cameras.
  2. The ideal camera. Or, more realistically, a small collection of excellent, individual cameras that I love using.
  3. A balance between being a photographer and a camera collector. Mostly I want to be the former, and feel like the latter.

35 is also my favourite film format, 35mm, the lens focal length I like using best (especially with compact cameras), and the approximate age I plan to remain for the rest of my life.

I hope to post selected favourite photographs, thoughts and reviews of the cameras I use, as well as general ramblings on photography and its place in my life.

Thanks for being here. Enjoy.