Improvised Support For Long Exposures

Hasselblad 500C, Zeiss 80mm/2.8 Planar C, Ilford XP2 Super

I have been bringing my Hasselblad along with me on routine outings where I find myself indoors.  Being a medium format camera with a slower maximum aperture (than say my Nikon gear) you can’t get away with hand holding exposures in low light as much.

I do use my tripod, but I also have been improvising support when needed.  In the above case I placed the Hasselblad on the counter a few feet away from the display of glasses in order to have a much longer shutter opening that I could have possibly handheld.

The classic chrome Zeiss 80mm C lens has a self timer built into it, so I pulled this off without a cable release.  You can use this trick with any camera with a self timer that you set down.

3-Way Bubble Level with Hasselblad

While I love using a medium format waist-level finder, I have to admit it seems a bit tough to keep the camera level.  The horizon as well as walls, edges etc. tilt a bit easier than when looking through an eye-level finder.

The waist level finder allows you to hold the body of the camera out from your body at all sorts of crazy angles.  I have been trying to experiment with shooting it sideways or even straight up.

I have plenty of experience using a 2-way bubble level (like the one in my bio pic), but these kinds of shenanigans called for help with the third axis. I have added a 3-way bubble level to my Hasselblad accessory rail shoe and so far it is proving handy.

No matter which way I point the camera there are always two levels in use, and since the Hasselblad side shoe rail rotates in stepped increments I can even level out angled shots.

Loving the Tungsten Kodak Motion Picture Film

Nikon FA, Nikkor 50mm/1.8, Kodak Vision3 500T motion picture film

I have been shooting more and more of the Kodak Vision 3 tungsten motion picture film.  This is a color negative film color-balanced for indoor artificial lighting which is warmer than natural daylight.

I love its color rendition under incandescent, halogen and even fluorescent and mixed lighting.  Combined with its higher ISO speed it has become my go-to film for any indoor & nighttime shooting.

If you want to prepare to shoot it in daylight, throw a 85B color conversion filter on your lens and your color will come out fine.

This is not actually sold by Kodak for use in film still cameras, but there are two ways I am aware of acquiring it for such use:

One major caveat you must be aware of: this film comes naturally from Kodak with a Rem-Jet backing used to ensure smooth movement through a motion picture camera.  If the Rem-Jet backing is present you cannot have this developed through standard C-41 color negative chemistry.

The CineStill variety is easier to use because they pre-remove the Rem-Jet so you can have it developed pretty much at any lab.  However the Rem-Jet also serves as this film’s anti-halation layer so you run the risk of getting a orange glow surrounding very bright light sources which are inside the frame.  You can see this in my photos of the Tower Bridge engine room.

The FPP roles still have the Rem-Jet and avoid those halos, but they require special film development.  So far I am only aware of one lab that offers that, the Little Film Lab which (luckily for me) operates out of the California Bay Area.

If you want to try this film don’t worry, either route works just fine.  Give it a shot for your next indoor shooting and you might just get hooked like I did!

Using the Hasselblad Waist-Level Viewfinder

I’ve been very busy with my Hasselblad 500C and have gotten much more familiar with it.

I have shot with waist-level finder’s before on 35mm cameras such as my Nikon F and my DSW’s Blackbird Fly, but with such a small image size they weren’t very easy to use.  Using on on a medium-format camera like the Hasselblad is much more practical and enjoyable.

I am now quite used to the waist-level finder on the Hasselblad, and find it actually enables a greater variety of viewing angles than an eye-level prism.  You see here I mounted the camera on its side on my tripod at eye height and therefore could look straight ahead to compose.

I have held it below me as I kneel or crouch, as well as held the camera upside-down directly above me to get a bird’s eye perspective.  Being able to extend the camera out as far as my arms can reach provides a lot of flexibility.

While it will never dethrone the eye-level finder for action or fast composition work, I am getting a big kick out of it.

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

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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.