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Posts from the ‘35mm Camera’ Category

The Under Dog

The Under Dog

I wonder about the artist who believes a sable brush is a secret behind a great painting. Many hold the belief that high-quality tools will turn a desire to excel into a reality. Buy the best tools for longevity and quality, but never believe the most exceptional quality will replace ability and practice.

For some time, I have used low priced cameras and lenses, rather than my expensive Nikon, Leica, and Bronicas. I prefer Fomapan film to Kodak or Ilford, and my scanner is a cheap Plustek. Of course, I have a darkroom with excellent equipment: however, the scanner makes more sense for online applications.

I am currently working on an online 35mm camera course, and I decided to use the most basic of equipment for instructional purposes. For most of my work I have used the Pentax S1a and 20mm, 28mm, 35mm 50mm and 85mm Takumar lenses. However, I have chosen the Former Soviet Union FED 2 camera with the Industar 50mm f3.5 for the course.

It seems to me if I can demonstrate that basic and cheap equipment can give excellent results. Then the student will concentrate on technique and composition rather than the camera and lens. I was once asked by a man with a Leica pendant (camera): ‘What is your favourite camera and lens?’ My reply ‘Ten cassettes of film’ had him perplexed. I explained ten cassettes of film would return 360 negatives: each one is a lesson in the art of photography. He still did not realise the implication that practice has more importance than equipment.

I smile when reading ‘experts’ opinion of the Leica lens resolving power. A Bronica lens will better the Leica, and a Hasselblad will make the German’s images seem whippy ice-cream soft. Most 35mm cameras are suitable for 9X6 inch prints, no matter what the brand. If you want bigger go medium format!

I came to the FED 2 camera after reading an article about rangefinders. The one used for this article is a twenty pound eBay purchase. The film is FomaPan 100 developed in Rodinal for nine minutes @ 20 degrees C.

Yesterday was a dullish day, and most exposures are either 1/60 or 1/30th second, and the aperture is f4.0. I have not tweaked or adjusted the 300dpi scans. More to follow…

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Slow Speed? Go For It!

Last week I had a chance meeting with Raymond Ford, the American featherweight boxer. He was in England to fight at the Motorpoint. He convincingly won his bout, and we hope to see him again in the UK.

I became engrossed in conversation with Dave. He had travelled from Camden, New York with the boxer,  he was at the market eating Nottingham’s traditional food ‘Mushy Peas and Mint Sauce’. It was not long before I asked the magic question: ‘Can I take your photograph?

Ray and Dave

The camera in the bag was a Nikkormat the lens a Nikkor 50mm f1.4: So I opened up the aperture to 1.4 and set the shutter to 1/15th of a second. Four frames taken on Fomapan 100 yielded two reasonable negatives. (Film developed in Rodinal 50+1 for 12.5 minutes).

Never be afraid to use slow speeds and wide apertures. The images can be rewarding. These two frames are not the sharpest. Although, six by nine-inch prints would look just fine. The subject outweighs the ultimate detail. No cropping as usual and the choice was to frame the image reasonably loosely because of the limited depth of focus.

Ray and Dave

There is a hard lesson learned here; my thoughts must have been sleeping at home. Why did I only take the four frames? And why didn’t I take individual portraits of Ray and Dave? No Answer other than brain block stupidity. Usually there is no reticence when using film: I’d use a whole cassette on a flower if the subject was worthy.

It would not have mattered if I’d taken thirty-six or seventy-two frames. The opportunity was lost. A hard lesson learned, and one never forgotten. Film costs nothing compared to the memories it records. I know this adage: why didn’t I follow it with the session?

Nikkormat 50mm f1.4

Interestingly my favoured Nikkor 50mm is the f2.0 H. I put the f1.4 on the body by pure chance. The Nikkormat is a superb camera: I own four, and only one has a meter issue. The cameras work faultlessly even though they are nudging fifty years old.

Pentax S1a – 50mm f2.0

I prefer my Pentax S1a’s above any other camera. But all have needed servicing by Eric at Pentax repairs. I select the Nikkormat’s in rotation as I do with my other cameras. If you desire to keep your cameras working, you need to use them often. It is recommended you run your camera through their shutter speed range once a week. Use ‘em or lose ‘em.

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Depth of Focus

In the last article I wrote about depth in focus. And the limitation was the Canon 5000’s auto exposure. And Yes! There is a way of setting the shutter speed to adjust or fix the aperture on the Canon however, the series of articles about the Canon is centered on using it as a novice’s photo instrument. Remember the idea is to see if less than £100-00’s worth of kit can reward the photographer.

In this article the intention is to explain that by using a wide aperture, the photographer keeps the background out of focus. This isolates the subject in the image. All of the images were taken with a Nikkormat FTn and Nikkor 50mm f1.4. The film is FomaPan 100 – developed in Rodinal 1+50 at 20° for 12 minutes and 30 seconds. The lens is well used and would benefit from a service. It has plenty of dust and some fungus.

More important is the camera settings: most are at f1.4 and the bike images are f2.0. The portraits are mostly 1/30th the Alice images are 1/15th and of course all hand-held. I would invite all photographers to take a chance with slow shutter speeds and wide apertures.  All images are straight scans with no sharpening or tweaking.

Click on The Images to Enlarge

Alice f1.4 – 1/15th Second

Market Images f1.4 – 1/30th Second

Bike Images f2.0 – 1/500th Second

Wide apertures and slow shutter speeds do work although, you have to be brave. The techniques is to make sure the camera is tight onto your face. Gently press the shutter button and DO NOT take your eye away from the eyepiece until the mirror has returned and you can see the image again.

Practice with care and you’ll be amazed at the results. I never use artificial light or flash and would use a one second exposure even if it resulted in some blurring. Incidentally the percieved resolution of a lens has much to do with contrast and light. The Nikkor lens used for these images has a repuation of not being sharp wide open. Truth to tell is the reviewers probably do not work hard enough to focus the lens. The technique is to move the focus ring ‘in and out’ of focus while looking at the subject. After a few seconds the eye becomes accustomed to the area of sharpness. If you are new to manual focus cameras try this method as well. Technique is what makes the photographer: Composition is what makes the photograph.

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Photo Project – Article Three

Sharp Focus Verses Composition – The standard Canon 5000 and 40mm STM lens is used for the sequence of bike images. Remember the objective of this project is to discover if a hundred pounds worth of analogue equipment will reward the photographer. To my mind composition outweighs ultimate sharpness and quality. If the image is interesting, it will hold the viewer far longer than a cut-throat sharp picture of a cardboard box.

I’m not interested in the ‘my lens is sharper than your’s’ mindset. The feeling is, justification comes to play in the statement. Let’s be clear, if you have paid a thousand pounds for your lens, the need is to believe the lens is ten times as good as a ‘user’ purchased for a hundred pounds.

It is not possible for a single lens to be ten times better than any high performer. And if the photographer is unable to focus correctly, the expensive lens has no advantage. So, we return to the idea composition is of greater importance than sharpness.

Sharpness has no concern for the real photographer. Wide apertures give a shallow depth of focus. There are little foreground and background sharpness when using a wide aperture. As the aperture closes, the extent of the in-focus area increases and isolation of a subject diminishes. The nearer the lens to the subject the shallower the depth of focus. If you look at these images, you’ll discover there are areas of sharpness and the other regions which are blurred. Although, the limitation of the auto exposure does give a smaller aperture than I would have preferred.

The way to focus with autofocus is to place the central focus area on the part of the image you need to isolate: focus and hold the shutter button while recomposing the image to your minds-eye’s composition. See if you can work out where my point of focus is in these images.

Autofocus is good, but manual focus helps better with compositional areas of focus. Only when using an SLR, can you compose and then critically focus on your chosen field without MOVING the camera. When using a standard or short telephoto lens with wide apertures, you may be off with your focus. Look through the images and see where the focal point is for the composition.

The negatives are sharp and would provide excellent six by nine-inch prints. All images are straight out of the scanner with NO adjustments. Many people will comment “‘it is only when you are enlarging to 12 by 16 will you find the resolution of the lens”. There is merit in their claim. However, the accurate reply is how many 12 by 16 images have you in your portfolio? And if I needed a 12 by 16 or 16 by 20 print, my choice of the camera would be medium format.

First Image: Ian Timothy
Short Photo Essay – The ‘Whole’ Picture

The inference here is close up images have great impact. And although the separate frames are indeed sharp: the information has more interest than the resolution of the photograph.

Gears: Ian Timothy
Aspect of the Bike – Gear Cluster
Gear Lever: Ian Timothy
Gear Shifter
Handlebars and Shifter: Ian Timothy
Handle Bars and Shifter
Bike Seat: Ian Timothy
Detailed Image of Leather Seat

When recording an ‘object’ photograph the whole picture and then a few composite parts of the subject. And remember: Although sharpness is a factor considered as important. Composition and information gain more attention from the reviewer of the images.

The film used is FomaPan 100 developed in Rodinal at 50:1 dilution: Time – nine minutes: Temperature 20 degrees C.

See you soon

Portrait Photo Project

Canon One (remember I’m alternating between two EOS 5000’s) was loaded with Foma100, and the portrait project began.

The images were mostly taken at our market stall. Over the years we have made many friends at the stall, so the simple question “can I take a few pictures for my photo project?” was usually answered with the affirmative. All who declined no longer receive discounts when I’m serving!

Using my Minolta meter IV, I measured the market’s available light. It indicated f2.0 at 1/30th of a second. The plastic Canon showed a lens factor of f2.8, and the shutter speed seemed slow. So, exceptional care is taken to hold the camera as steady as possible. All of the market images were made using the 50mm STM.

Sonia was a lap dancer some years ago. She is a generous and kind lady with a cheeky attitude to life.

Claire has a food stall on the market. She runs Nottingham’s ‘mushy pea’ stall. Mushy peas are dried peas soaked in bicarbonate of soda and then boiled until super? Well, mushy!. They are served with mint sauce.


Darren is a brilliant artist. He makes carved animal pendants. I wish I’d taken a few images of his art.

Phil is a friend. He is a demon at picking winning racehorses. I am not joking or exaggerating.


The negatives are sharp, and the scans do not do justice to the potential of a wet print. The initial conclusion is the camera and lenses are capable of producing excellent results.

Thanks for Reading This Article

Long Term Photo Project

I have decided to begin a long term photo project. Based on a belief that the type, make, or the price of a camera is of no importance to the quality, and more importantly the composition of the final image. There is no suggestion a throwaway snap-shot camera will provide the same quality of pictures made by an SLR or rangefinder. However, it is possible to demonstrate a low priced 35mm film camera is a viable alternative to higher priced ‘professional’ models.

Helmut Newton sometimes used a Canon EOS 100 and Canon EF 35mm 2.8 – 50mm 1.8 and 85mm 1.8 lenses. Although he photographed with many other cameras: the fact he used ‘amateur’ equipment for professional assignments is a testament to the: ‘not what you use – it’s how you use it’ school of thought.

Canon EOS -

After ten minutes searching on eBay, I discover two EOS 5000 cameras. The pair are purchased for eighteen pounds including postage. The 5000 is chosen because it does not have light seals or the dreaded shutter cushion found in the following EOS film cameras. (The shutter cushion deteriorates and causes problems inside the film chamber). It does have an easily replaceable mirror cushion. After delivery, the cameras were inspected: both function correctly, and the mirror cushions are in excellent condition.

Click on the pictures to enlarge images:

One camera had the infamous sticky ‘rubber’ grip, a problem for many buyers. Worry not; buy a bottle of methylated spirits, soak a tissue in the spirit and wipe away the ‘sticky grippy’ residue. You’ll use around fifteen tissues to remove the rubber finish: After removal, you’ll never know it was there or why it was needed in the first place.

The Cameras:

Basic automatic and semi-manual settings are the order of the day. In manual use, the user selects the shutter speed, and the camera finds a suitable aperture. There are four ‘pre-set programs’- portrait – landscape – macro – sports. The pre-set is aperture/shutter processor. Choose portrait and processor leaves the aperture wide open (for a shallow zone of focus). Choose landscape and aperture is small (deep zone of focus). Choose sports mode, and the shutter speed is high. Macro seems to be the smallest aperture possible. The presets will be used when needed. The fully auto setting indicated by the green rectangle marking will be the most used setting for this project. Helmut Newton preferred auto metering, so I’ll follow his lead.

Both cameras have their identities black taped. There is an advantage of black taping a camera if it is used for candid snapshots. People do not seem to notice the camera. Do not ask me why this works. I’m convinced the subjects do not see a black taped camera as quickly.

Camera batteries:

Another eBay find is four UltraFire CR123A rechargeables for six pounds. As I already have four CR123A’s and a charger; the battery situation is well covered. Incidentally, the cameras use two batteries. The rechargeables will last for around thirty cassettes of film.


I own Canon 40mm and 50mm STM lenses. The combined cost of the 40 and 50 was one hundred and fifty pounds. Cheapish purchases which prove if you keep looking, bargains are to be discovered. I may take the project further and purchase an EF 85mm 1.8. For the moment the 40 and 50 will be sufficient for the work in hand. It will be interesting to discover which makes the better ‘standard’ lens.

Using the camera:

Once fitted with batteries the camera is good to go. Loading the film is simple, extend the leader to the orange mark, close the back, and you’re ready. After the back is locked the motor rolls out the film onto the take-up spool. As every frame is exposed, the film is returned into the cassette. A led counter shows how many frames are left. Photographers should expect thirty-seven frames from each cassette.

The film will be developed using the classic Rodinal: diluted 1+50 and processed for twelve minutes at 20 degrees C. To test the consistency of exposure and focus I will alternate between the two cameras. It will be interesting to see if the negative density is the same for each camera.


Seasoned photographers will point out the camera has no exposure compensation facility. Exposure compensation is used to over or underexpose the negative in certain situations. For example: if the portrait of a white person is made with monochrome film I would over-expose by one stop (from the meter reading) to darken the skin tone ON the negative. When printing the negative the darker area of the exposure would make the skin lighter. If I were to take an image of a dark-skinned person, the exposure would be reduced by one stop to ‘thin’ the skin tone area ON the negative. During printing in the darkroom, the exposure compensated negative would yield the correct representation of the subject.


Canon EOS -

The slowest shutter speed is one-eighth of a second. There is no concern for this apparent limitation. The reality is slow shutter speed is rarely used by photographers. Use open apertures and the fastest possible shutter speed to attain sharp images. Many so-called experts write about lens sharpness, they fail to acknowledge the certainty most ‘out of focus images’ are in reality ‘blurred’ from camera shake. Overcoming camera shake takes practice: the trick is to frame the picture – gently press the shutter and keep the eye to the viewfinder until the shutter returns. Another secret is to keep the eye open during the exposure, do not blink!

Over the coming weeks, I will write about the performance of the cameras and how they cope with different photo-projects. One cassette of film will be used for each subject type. For examples, portraits, motor cars and motorcycles, houses, architectural aspect of a building. The guideline is the same: one subject one cassette, thirty-six exposures.

From Film to Computer:

The choice is to scan the negatives using a basic Plustek scanner. It seems ironic the scanner is more expensive than the total cost of two lenses and camera bodies. Some people worry about the expense of using film. To my mind it is insignificant: Ten cassettes of 36 exposure FomaPan 100 can be purchased for thirty-four pounds including postage. A bottle of Rodinal developer costs fourteen pounds. By the way, 500ml of Rodinal will process eighty rolls of film. Stop bath and fixer is no more than ten pence a film.

Work on thirty-pence per film for chemicals and three pounds forty pence for the film: we can conclude it is a cheap hobby. A photographer could take a whole day to use a cassette of film. What could be more affordable? Once you begin to print the negatives in a darkroom the process becomes expensive; although I’ll show ways to use a hybrid darkroom later in this series of articles. Hybrid? Yes! The scanner is used for most of the work, and exceptional negatives are wet printed.

Seven Days:

The EOS will be loaded with film, and the project is portraits. One cassette and a series of images taken with either 40mm or 50mm lens over the next five days. Develop the film, scan the negatives and write the following article.

See You Soon

Berlin – Pentax MV – 40mm Pancake

Pentax MV + 40mm Pancake

Pentax MV + 40mm Pancake

Ok, so we went to Berlin. Beautiful City and a million and one photo opportunities. My idea was to capture the City’s essence through its architecture and sculpture. The pictures we see here are from one cassette of PanF. I developed the film in Rodinal at 50:1 for eleven minutes @ 20 degrees.

The negatives are sharper than the scans and will yield super images. I have only scanned the frames and slightly adjusted the exposure.

The objective was to see if a humble auto exposure camera and a lens which receives poor reviews could be a good companion throughout the break. I’m not going to make an opinion. Let the images be the evidence and you are the judge.


Helmut Newton

Helmut Newton

This is the Museum of Photography a homage to Helmut Newton. No doubt the images in the exhibition are fantastic. I am surprised the photographs are presented with plain glass in the frames: non-reflective glass would be a far superior choice. The images are ruined by reflection of the lighting and indeed the ‘viewer’ of the images. Helmut’s collection of personal items is fascinating. In the collection, we discover he used a Canon EOS 100 film camera!

Berlin One

Berlin One

Berlin Two

Berlin Two

Berlin Three

Berlin Three

Berlin Four

Berlin Four

These are four aspects of the same area. The City is in continuous re-build mode and it is easy to see how the sharp-edged City-Scape gives nice abstract photo images.

Berlin Bear One

Berlin Bear One

Berlin Bear Close Up

Berlin Bear Close Up

The Bear is the traditional symbol of the City. Yes, the ‘chariot’ image is poor, I have put it into the article to give the reader a perspective of where the close up comes from.

Berlin Wall Collapse Monument One

Berlin Wall ‘Collapse’ Monument One

Berlin Wall Collapse Monument Two

Berlin Wall ‘Collapse’ Monument Two

Unfortunately, the park and monument are in a poor and neglected state. It is evident this ‘statement’ is in the former East Berlin. There is much evidence of neglect and apathy in this area. Lots of rough grass and graffitied concrete, weed-infested walkways, give a real feeling that the West still rules.

At the centre is a sculptural wall surrounded by a small water pool. It is not a monument. It is an architectural design representing the Berlin Wall which used to be nearby. Even though angled you can walk up to the top of the structure.

This is situated along the street (Invalidenstraße) and next to the Naturkundemuseum.

Berlin Sculpture One

Berlin Sculpture

I just like the image!

Berlin Random One

Berlin Random One

Berlin Random Two

Berlin Random Two

Berlin Random Three

Berlin Random Three

One: The new three billion euro train station.
Two: A Community Centre, very busy and well used>
Three: An aviary in the City Centre.

Can the little Pentax MV and the 40mm Pancake be a worthy travelling companion?

One thing is for sure – You do not need too much money to be an analogue photographer.

See You Soon

35mm Pentax – Humble MV?

35mm Pentax – Humble MV?

I’m spending some time in Berlin next week (August 2018). I intend to be a tourist/traveller. Who cares about the tourist identity? Apparently many do so, there is some difference between being a tourist and being a traveller:

Apparently, the traveller is more empathetic with her surroundings: She chooses public transport, prefers to speak the local tongue, enjoys being lost, buys food from small shops, drinks beer not expensive vino.

The tourist is more of a taker: He goes on organised sightseeing trips, uses a translator app, does not stray far from the beaten track, samples overpriced cafes.

The traveller is liked by the natives, and the tourist is a necessary evil. 

Some suggest a tourist/traveller with professional photo gear makes the locals wary. This is a valid idea. My feeling is that looking like a tourist actually opens the possibilities for unique photo opportunities. Being understated is an advantage when taking images, especially if one wants to take a photo of a crazy guy dressed as a transvestite gorilla. So, next week, I’m going to look like a tourist and think like a traveller. I’ll have a camera swinging around my neck all week.

I am a “Touraller” a cross between tourist and traveller.

I wonder what film camera to chose, and decide the little Pentax MV and 40mm f2.8 SMC-M lens will fit the ‘unassuming’ image I wish to portray. Normally, I’d travel with a Pentax SV, 50mm f1.4, and 28mm Takumar. However, I’m hoping to demonstrate how humble equipment can produce solid and impactful imagery. So the MV and Pancake win the competition.

The combined cost of the MV and 40mm is sixty-five pounds, forty pounds being the price of the 40mm. I paid twenty-five pounds for the MV including a 50mm F2.0. Let us consider the camera and lens.

Pentax MV

Fully automatic exposure and manual focus. If the battery drains, you are restricted to a 1/100th of a second bailout. Enthusiasts scorn this little gem, and long may they continue to do so, their ignorance keeps the camera low in price. Because the fact is; the lens is 90% of the photographic deal. A Leica nut can argue until the sun sets his camera is superior, as well it could be: the fact is, the photographer composes the image, the camera holds the film which records his view of the world. Camera 10% – Lens 90% of the equation.

Am I comparing a twenty-five pound MV with a fifteen hundred pounds M7? Of course, I (am) not! Can the MV and 40mm produce fantastic images comparable to a two-grand Leica? No doubt about it! As we’ll see when I return from Berlin!

The Pentax is small (see the image of it sitting next to an iPhone plus). Once calibrated, its metering ability is excellent. The latitude of monochrome film is three stops on either side of the selected settings. The MV is easily able to accomplish exposures within this range. Aperture priority seems to be a good way for the auto-exposure camera to prioritise its exposure. The photographer sets the required aperture, and the camera’s metering selects the shutter speed. Wide aperture equates to fast shutter speed, small aperture gives longer exposure times. 

A three coloured light is visible when looking through the viewfinder. If the light is green, the shutter speed is fast enough for a handheld exposure. Yellow the shutter speed is below 1/30 of a second and great care is needed holding the camera during exposure, red, well take a chance! It may be primitive, but the system works. 

The composition is everything in photography. Why not let the camera look after the exposure? Understanding the lens and depth of focus is key to the composition. Reviewing images is the way to learn: the reviewing process demands the photographer asks: Is the picture in focus, have I cropped tight enough, is the image telling a story, is the image conveying information? The more the photographer asks the questions while reviewing her images, the better her creative subconscious composes images ‘at the time the exposure is made’.

40mm SMC-M Pancake Lens

This lens has a poor reputation, with various reviewers calling it ‘soft’, a term which means it resolves ‘unsharp’ images. The problem with this little lens is it is (for some) challenging to focus. From closest focus distance to infinity takes less than one-third of a turn of the focus ring. At the closest focus distance, three millimetres of movement either side of the sharp focus point and the probability is the image will look soft. Inevitably the inability of the photographer to focus the lens means its design limitation becomes the excuse for poor camera technique. The resulting unsharp images indicate the lens has an unfair reputation.

Reviewers also comment the 40mm produces low contrast imagery. Poor focus flattens the image, and many lenses have lower contrast at open apertures. Contrast is therefore considered as a pointer to the quality of the lens. The better it can resolve an image with clearly defined separation of shade, the higher the contrast. So, the more defined the micro-contrast, which is in effect the line or separation point between the two shades, the better the image.

As we close the aperture on most lenses, sharpness and contrast increases. My preference is for open apertures of f1.4 to f4.0 because I prefer to isolate the subject in the recorded image. I will be documenting aspects of a City, so a little leeway is needed the choice is for an aperture of f4.0 to f8.0, the reasons for this will be put forward in the next article when we review the pictures taken over the next week.

Although, while considering contrast one should also consider film choice, and, for black and white photography the developer, time and temperature combination. These factors affect the contrast aspect of the negative. As does the grade of paper selected during printing. Never underestimate the importance of consistent technique. A photographer who uses, one film, one developer and learns to be consistent can produce bright images time after time. 

Many photographers disagree: their argument is different film/developer combinations offer great compositional opportunities, and there is no disputing the evidence. A counter-argument is; learn every aspect of one film and THEN add another to the photographic arsenal. 

My trio of films is PanF in Rodinal (my favourite combination), followed by FP4plus developed in Rodinal, and finally, HP5plus developed in ID11. Do not think I’m unable to use the right combination for differing situations. There is immense pleasure in printing an image where a fast film is pushed to the limit. Although, most digital cameras can record a black cat in a coal bunker better than any traditional film. So why bother wasting expensive film when the pixel is the celebrity guest at theatres and concerts?

The 40mm focal length is associated with the same field of view as the human eyes. My compositions attempt to record ‘your’ world from ‘my’ intimate perspective. Tight and compressed imagery, combined with dramatic shadows and contrast is the way I’ll photograph Berlin. This is an insight into the way I live my life, can you reflect on your life within your imagery?

Buying Cameras, Lenses and Film:

With continuous searching, bargains are still to be found. The purchase price of £40:00 for my copy of the lens is lower than the £100:00 most sellers ask. One Japanese seller is asking nearly £280:00 plus postage for a 40mm Pancake: Yes, these small compact lenses have a genre: “pancake”. Remember, where one man leads others to follow, the lens is sure to increase in value. And, as many of us know, once someone pays a high price for an item, it will go from mediocre performer to stellar diamond.  

Pentax MV Compact SLR

Pentax MV Compact SLR

At present (2018) enthusiasm for analogue photography is growing: the side effect of this is increasing costs of equipment. Film photographers must begin to accept ‘35mm equipment will continue to rise in value’. Because, apart from a four thousand pound Leica film camera, no others are in production. As the price of available cameras rises, fewer people will feel inclined to try the medium. In the worse case, this suggests, in the long term, analogue photography will decline.

Once the decline happens: It is possible many small film producers cease production. I know this is a contentious statement, but I would guide any photographer to buy only the products of well-established brands. For my part loyalty to Ilford imaging products is a contribution to a stable and established company and therefore, dedication to them will keep film alive. 

Would the photographer rather have one rock-solid producer with a long-term future, than ten small and fragile companies struggling to survive? The difficulty with small producers is we fall in love with a film, and it goes out of production, and in the end, you have to return to the established brands. They are like love affairs, they leave nothing but heartbreak. The rebranded film packed in expensive niche cassettes and boxes are nothing special, do not fool yourself into believing the hype. Yes, they are enjoying a harvest for the moment, the question is for how long? 

We can discover Zen in photography. Waking up each morning accepting I know nothing, and there is everything to learn: is my Zen. My sincere belief is we can better our life journey by viewing the world with open eyes and an open-minded attitude. Photography encourages us to do this, with one proviso: the images we record should represent the world and environment on a personal level. By allowing people into one’s world, we demonstrate, truth, integrity and creativity.

Stay focussed – Stay sharp – Creativity is the Future.


Composition and f-stops with the Pentax

Images recorded with Ilford Film Pan F developed in Rodinal
Camera Pentax S1a – Lens 50mm f2.0 Takumar

Film photography encourages one to think. Think about composition, exposure and the different ways of producing the image.

People become concerned about the aperture/shutter relationship. My feeling is that the area of critical focus can be isolated using a wider aperture (lower numbers on aperture ring). And isolated subjects hold more interest than a ‘busy’ mosaic composition. However, we should remember that to achieve the isolation effect we must consider the lens aperture selected and the relevance of the distance between lens and subject. 

The wide aperture gives less depth of focus (also called depth in field) – small aperture greater depth of focus. The closer we are to the subject, the less the depth (or zone) of focus. The following images and example should explain this important aspect of composition.

The image of Liz was taken about a foot away from the lens. The aperture is F4.0. The background is entirely out of focus and Liz is isolated. The depth of focus (depth of field) is minimal, I focussed on her eyelashes, and you can see her glasses are slightly blurred. 

Liz - f4.0 -1/250th second

Liz – f4.0 -1/250th second

With the lens still at F4.0, the next image is recorded with the scooter six or seven feet away from the lens. Look carefully at a depth of focus. The scooter with the basket is still in focus, although the third one is blurred. 

Scooter f4.0 - 1/250 second

Scooter f4.0 – 1/250 second

During the years as a professional photographer, I came to understand the client required sharp images which told a story. In other words, an image taken for informational purposes needs to be razor sharp and the image recorded with accuracy. To achieve this for architecture and industrial photographic records greater depth of focus is required. For portraits, dreamy imagery works well, although, sharp eye/eyes are essential; generally longer focal length lens and wide aperture fulfil this need.

Today. I record images for pleasure, and the pressure is not on to fulfil the client’s needs. Therefore, I travel light, one camera, 28mm, 50mm lenses, lens hoods and filters and light meter. I do not carry a tripod under any circumstances.

It is no coincidence the tripod is used for 90 per cent of all professional imagery. Camera shake is the main reason for supposed out of focus images. Therefore, for handheld work: the preference is to use a wide aperture and fast shutter speeds. Careful attention must be made to focusing on technique. Remember, you focus on the image, and the camera must be held still. If the camera is focussed and then moved forward or backward (moving off the focal plane of the film) even by an inch before the release of the shutter, the recorded image will be out of focus.

Try this when taking an exposure:

Hold the camera to the eye, focus, gently (as gentle as possible) press the shutter: Do not move the camera until the mirror has returned and the exposure is complete. Also, keep your viewing eye open during the exposure. Practice this with an empty camera: I can say without a doubt your images will improve using this technique.

The buggy picture is also taken at F4.0. The shutter speed is 1/125th of a second. I sat on the ground to take the image. Focussing on the cam belt guard gave sufficient depth of focus to the image. Remember, when making an exposure reading with monochrome film, expose for the shadows. (I’ll write about this in another article).

Buggy f4.0 - 1/125 second

Buggy f4.0 – 1/125 second

Now, the point about this photograph is the composition is weak. The image should have been more compressed and tighter. Why did I choose not to do this? If I’d closed in on the subject, I would have lost the depth of focus. There is plenty of shapes and facets to the image, and this is what makes it interesting. As F4.0 gave a 1/125th shutter speed, I reckoned the looser composition gave more information than a close focused composition. If I’d have closed in to compress the image, the depth of focus, which provides better detail of the engine parts would be lost. If I had a tripod, I would have exposed at F8.0 1/30th of a second and compressed the image.

Cropped Buggy

Cropped Buggy

I prefer not crop images: however, to prove the point here is the after ‘cropping’ picture. You are reminded: I knew, the image would be cropped at the time of recording the image, for the reason already stated. There was no way I would chance F8.0 at 1/30th of a second, the probability of camera shake would have rendered the negative as useless. 

Even in the U.K, we can use slow film handheld if the choice is to learn to focus and use wide apertures. Isolating the subject is a powerful compositional tool. Learning the various techniques of wet photography is not difficult. And once learned, the photographer can centre of on the most critical aspect of imagery: composition.

Film photography is the best way to learn about composition, because, the photographer has to think. Digital photography allows for immense leeway and adjustment after the images are taken. To be at its best, wet photography demands proper technique. Learn good exposure skills and dare to use wider apertures and magic will happen.

The 35mm photographer is guided not to crop the images in the darkroom or after scanning, in the early stages of learning the art. The more often the creative mind is coaxed to consider composition in the viewfinder, the better the images become. My darkroom print size is 6X4 or 6X9 inch; this allows for small but careful ‘crops’ for one’s final compositions. I see no point in making huge prints from 35mm. If I wish to make a 16X20 inch print, medium format is chosen. 

A final thought:

Try to free yourself from, test reports and internet experts. Photography can be Zen-like and encourage great calm. A student asked me what my favourite camera and lens was. My answer was ‘ten rolls of film’. The images used in this article were taken using a camera and lens purchased from eBay for £30:00 including postage. Not only this, the pictures you see are scans, a darkroom print will provide three times the resolution seen in this article.

Enjoy your photography – Keep it simple and stay focused

35mm Pentax

It is time to write a few words about the pleasure of using 35mm Pentax cameras. Before I move onto to the reason camera and film are an essential aspect to my creative mind: It is necessary for me to inform the reader I own and have used some exotic film cameras: Hasselblad – Bronica – Leica – Nikon are a few names in my collection. To my eye, the Pentax Takumar lenses extraordinarily resolve the taken image. It is accepted others will have another opinion, and that is fine by me. There is no intention of making a case for better than or superior.

The 35mm Pentax aspect of my WordPress site is an indulgence as is the whole of the site. From the short stories of the early articles to the indulgence of personal and intimate feelings and my obscure observations of life. Surely this is why we all tap the keys? We are leaving an archive of our thoughts, beliefs and prophecies? If this is not the reason, do not waste your time: if the belief is, we are going to make a ‘Kennedy’ or ‘Hitler’ difference we are within an illusion.

My cameras are near my 1958 vintage. I will write of this aspect in other articles. Near 1958? Yes, my favourite lens was made somewhere between 1960 – 2 and my camera’s date of manufacture range from 62 – 73. Many have benefitted from full services (costly), and I intend to have the whole of my collection serviced over the next year or so. This is an investment; I’ll predict fully serviced 35mm metal cameras will demand prices of $1000+ within ten years. How many do I own? It does not matter! I’m content to search for Pentax screw thread cameras in reasonable condition. 

An important consideration is the cameras should be used. Owning a film camera and not exploring its possibilities is like owning a Porsche and leaving it in the garage. The film camera can be considered a Zen object: One of constant learning: My interpretation of Zen is every day is anew – the day ahead is full of potential and a new awareness to possibilities in every facet of life. I’m hoping to portray this in my writing about the Pentax camera as an extension to the eye.

The lenses are named Takumar: And this is an artistic reference to the brother of the original owner of the Asahi Pentax Camera Co:

Takumar is the name that Asahi Optical gave to its lenses, notably but not exclusively those for its own SLR cameras. Named after the Japanese-American portrait painter, Takuma Kajiwara (梶原啄磨 Kajiwara Takuma), whose brother Kumao Kajiwara founded Asahi Optical.

I feel this imbibes an essence of Zen in the product. Other cameras have weight and more professional features: The simplicity of Takumar and Pentax cameras ask for a kindness and respect like no other camera. This is not to write the cameras were cheap to buy: an SV camera was the equivalent to $1500 today’s today’s exchange rate.  I will write about the cameras and lenses in other articles and I will demonstrate the capabilities of the lenses in the articles.

It is my intention to photograph and comment on a specific subject: and as I write about the subjects I’ll also write about lenses, filters and the process of developing film:

Wet photography is a simple process. Once the photographer learns to load the film on the developing tank spiral and load the tank. The film is processed – the developer realises the frames on the film – a stop bath makes the developer inert, and a fixing bath desensitises the light-sensitive negative to light. A film scanner turns the negative image into a positive digital image. On a basic level, this is all we need to be a photographic artist. The analogue photographer is indeed an artist. We see the image and take our time to record the memory.

The film is a connection: it holds the memory: the roll is at the time of exposure: within the camera: it shares and holds the memory: it is a record of the instant beyond digital: and the photographer has to nurture the negative into life.

Digital is better than analogue, better quality, more comfortable to work with and majestic in its simplicity. On a daily basis, the digital camera is superior in every way. However digital does not hold the fragility of the film and chemical process, wet photography demands nurturing – (wet? yes water is involved in the processes) – The whole of film photography is immersive. 

Many years ago I destroyed tens of thousands of negatives: In my mind’s eye, I can see the act of destruction. Upon reflection it was the only way to move into a life which is just beautiful, those images would have held memories of alcoholic insanity. And other nightmares worthy of suicide. Today’s archive will live until my final sleep: there is no reason for anyone to be interested in the way I see life. These negatives will in time be destroyed. There is no concern for this future act, in my final sleep, I’ll be comfortable with the chance my creator gave me to take the images.

I’ll bore people with my thoughts about the Pentax 35mm camera over the next few years. No matter: if one other human, somewhere likes my words, the objective is fulfilled.

For this project, I use one film and developer: Ilford Pan F and Rodinal.


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