Not Quite the Hassle I Expected

I am giving medium format photography a serious try.

This isn’t my first time shooting 120 film by any means.  I have toyed with Holgas before as well as carted around my behemoth Mamiya RB67 a few times.

But I was able to convince a few relatives of mine (thanks Dad and Uncle!) to pass on a family heirloom to me, a pretty complete Hasselblad 500C system.

It was in great cosmetic shape, but it all needed a good cleaning and some basic repair.  I took the body, one lens and one film back to my friend Manfred at International Camera Technicians in Mountain View, CA and they have come back to me in tip top shape.

While much easier to take around than the RB67, it still calls for a very different style of shooting than my 35mm cameras and will take some getting used to.  But I am having a blast figuring it out!

Using the Zenit TTL

Zenit TTL, Helios 44M 58mm f/2, Kodak Portra 160

So far I am greatly enjoying using the Zenit TTL. I love it’s design which I find to be rugged and simple.

The Zenit TTL is a 35mm SLR from the early 1980’s with a M42 (aka Pentax aka Praktica) lens screw mount. As it’s name would imply it features through-the-lens metering including automatic aperture stop down with newer M42 lenses.

It’s metering is built into the shutter release. Partially pressing it down engaged the meter as well as stops down the lens aperture, and then pressing futher releases the shutter.

This is different than say the Pentax Spotmatic SP which has a separate lever to engage the aperture and metering. Either method works fine, though in practice I don’t check or change exposure every shot and therefore find the Pentax a bit less disruptive.

The metering itself is a bit suspect. I believe it averages light across the whole frame and seems to key off of any bright spots. It also engages at a slightly different point than the aperture stop-down.

I haven’t had any problems getting good exposures from it, but I have had to double- or triple-check many shots just to be sure I knew what it was thinking.

Olympics Past and Present

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The camera I hinted at last time is the Zenit TTL, specifically the edition commemorating the Games of the XXII Olympiad.  The 1980 Summer Olympics were held in Moscow and Zenit sold a souvenir flavor of their top film SLR for several years later.

So far this camera is a blast to shoot with.  It is a bit on the large and heavy side, although not nearly as much as I feared.  It does feel solid in a good way with its film advance and other functions having no slack or shifting at all.

The camera I found is in great shape and even the original leather case is perfectly usable.  It came with another Helios 44M lens, a 58MM f/2 standard lens with swirly out-of-focus elements when opened wide up.

With the Sochi Winter Olympics opening ceremony just around the corner I feel this is as appropriate a time as any to be shooting with this camera!

Welcome 2014

2014-01-18 23.18.22
Guess who?  (And from what camera?)

It was a busy holiday season for us as always, though this year was particularly packed for some reason.  I am just coming out of the trailing edge of seasonal activity and thinking once again about photography.

So Happy New Year to everyone!  Better late than never…

We are big olympaholics in this house and will watch summer or winter Olympics for hours on end.  Truth be told we slightly favor the winter Olympics, perhaps due to the higher speeds and greater likelihood of folks wiping out.

Given my recent penchant for M42 mount cameras I couldn't resist trying another model out.  I found one that will be very appropriate given that the Sochi XXII Olympic Winter Games are coming up soon.

See if you can figure out who the above figure is (not too hard…) as well as what was in the box he is printed on (perhaps a bit harder!).

Not Very Praktical

Close up of my (defunct) Praktica MTL5

I have been so enamored with my Pentax Spotmatic that I wanted to try another M42 mount camera.

The M42 mount is often called either the Pentax screw mount or the Praktica screw mount for the two cameras that arguably had the most success with it. Naturally it was my inclination to try out a Pentacon Praktica next.

I picked up two “as-is” Prakticas off eBay for about ten dollars just to check them out: a basic LB2 with a non-coupled selenium cell meter and a more advanced MTL5 with TTL metering.

I was really happy when I put a battery into the MTL5 and loaded it up with everything seeming to work just fine. However in a mere 15 exposures or so the film advance and mirror froze preventing me from shooting any further.

I loaded up the LB2 as well, but right from the start it’s film advance feels very rough and forced.

I can’t fault two “as-is” cameras for not working terribly well. However I have to say that both Prakticas have a very light and cheap feel to them, nothing as serious as my Spotmatic.

In fact they remind me of one of my other lower-quality vintage cameras which also happened to have its advance freeze on me…

The Prakticas also have the most annoying shutter release positioning I have ever experienced: It is placed angled forward sticking out of the front of the camera. It can be painful to use, especially with my middle finger getting wedged between the self-timer and lens.

The net result is I do not feel inclined to get another Praktica… I think I simply need a second Spotmatic for a backup body!

Df and A7r

My trusty Nikon FA… I think the Sony A7r looks more like it than the Nikon Df

I shoot plenty of digital photography with my D300, mostly of family things like kids sports or school events. But for other purposes I still shoot film; I haven’t yet found a digital camera that I enjoy shooting for the sake of enjoying photography.

I have been intrigued by the recent announcements of the Nikon Df and the Sony A7r. The Df is a “retro” DSLR while the A7r is the first full-frame (35mm sized) mirrorless interchangeable lens camera.

I have historically been a Nikon fan, but I have mixed feelings about the Df. While I like the idea of retro styling, manual controls and support for the oldest Nikkor lenses, the Df seems like it has half a foot in history and half in the present without having the best of both.

The Df lacks a manual focusing screen as well as video shooting capabilities, so it isn’t as good as my film cameras for shooting manually nor is it as good as other (cheaper priced) DSLR’s at… well… being a modern digital camera.

Perhaps Matt Granger put it best in his Df spoof video: you can get an authentic manual photographic experience for a tiny fraction of the price if you simply buy good used film SLR.

The Sony A7r on the other hand looks to be a true breakthrough: a top-notch full-frame sensor, a small body with (I think) a nice look and selection of controls, and pretty much all the features you would anticipate from a high-end digital camera.

I am not in the market for a new high-end digital camera just now, but it look forward to checking both these out when they hit the stores.

 

Mir With The Crazy Flare

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Pentax Spotmatic, KMZ Mir-1B 37/2.8, Kodak Portra 400

This has to be the most extreme example of lens flare that I
have personally achieved in a photograph.  Even J.J. Abrams would be proud!

I see at least a dozen distinct flare elements, and that is
counting the stars as just one each rather than once per point.

One of my reasons for getting a vintage Pentax Spotmatic
35mm SLR was to try out some older lenses with character.  When I read up on the KMZ Mir-1B on Vintage Lenses for Video it was
described as having out-of-this-world flare under the right circumstances.

The front of this lens needs to be wielded with care as I found that having the front of the lens pointed anywhere
near the sun resulted in at least one circular flare somewhere in the frame.

I am sure there are creative ways to use it though, so whenever I need lens flare I know just where to turn to.

Framed Tree in KEH Blog

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Rollei 35S, Rollei Retro 80s

I made it into KEH's Photos of the Month for October with the above shot.

This tree is in a park where our boys have tennis lessons nearly every Sunday.  I have taken shots of it before, but this time the framing and lighting/shadows worked out pretty nicely.

The Rollei's 40mm lens has a narrow enough field of view that I had to back up almost all the way to the street on the far side of this open grass area to capture the whole tree.  And after shifting around for a minute or two I found a nice framing by the branches in the foreground.

While I love the Rollei cameras, I am not sure I a convert to the current Rollei-branded films (actually made by Agfa).  Retro 80s film does have a classic B&W look to it, but it has a very speckled grain at full magnification that I have yet to come to terms with.

Did you know that Rollei 35's are still manufactured today?  After the parent company went brankrupt in 2009 some of the employees launched a new company DHW Fototechnik and still make digital and analog SLRs as well as some classic TLRs and the 35.

They offer the Rollei 35 in some crazy looking special editions.

Oh, and this was the second time I made it into the KEH blog.  The first was back in their February photo post and was a picture taken of my Rollei 35S previously featured here.

KMZ Industar-50-2

2013 09 20 JMZ Swim Pentax Spotmatic Kodak Portra 400-8628-0020
Pentax Spotmatic, KMZ Industar-50-2 50/3.5 (wide open), Kodak Portra 400

The first soviet lens I have been trying out is an Industar-50-2 made by KMZ.

KMZ was one of the most prolific of the soviet camera and lens manufacturers, and the Industar-50-2 was one of their more common lenses.  I think this was "The People's 50mm" for many back in the day.

It is incredibly compact and so some call it a pancake lens, but I find its sloped edges more reminiscent of a squat nuclear cooling tower.

As with many of the older M42 mount lenses, the Industar-50-2 features a smooth (if not loose) aperture ring with no stops, meaning that it rotates smoothly from f/16 up through f/3.5.

You focus the Industar wide open and then stop down to the desired aperture in order to meter.  This can be tough to do by touch given the lack of clicks, but on the other hand there is nothing preventing you from dialing in any intermediate aperture to nail exposure just where you want it.

The relatively slow maximum aperture means that this is not a good lens for low-light situations or minimizing the depth of field.  However, I have found that I can shoot wide open even in daylight and still get nice, rounded out of focus elements in the photo.

Rejuvenating Yellowed Lens Glass Via UV Light

2013-09-28 21.09.31
UV rejuvination in progress

There is a curious phenomenon which affects some older lenses as
they age: the cement used to bond glass elements together can turn yellow.

While comparing two of my recently acquired M42 lenses with each other,
a 50/1.4 Super-Takumar to a 58/2 Helios-44-2, I was puzzled when meter
readings from the Super-Tak called for a slower shutter speed on the same
subject with both lenses wide open.

I also noticed the view through my Spotmatic's finder was yellow-ish
with the Super-Tak.  Some research on this topic turned up that this is a
common issue afflicting these lenses.

Others report success bleaching the lens back to clarity using ultraviolet
light, either from direct daylight (window glass blocks UV) or via a strong UV light
bulb.  I decided to try a CFL party black
light
and heat lamp fixture from home depot.

After merely 24 hours of exposure to UV there was a noticeable
difference, and by 4 days later it appeared cleared up to the naked eye.

My meter readings now called for a one-stop
faster shutter on the Super-Tak so I figure I am done with the UV light treatment.

Before and After: Helios 44-2 on the left and Super-Takumar 50/1.4 on the right

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As an added bonus I now have a black light at my disposal just in time for Halloween trick-or-treaters!